What’s Your Praise-to-Criticism Ratio?

Bedtime at our house is a challenge. Putting four kids to bed is not for the faint of heart. Too often, my wife and I exchange short words without paying attention to how it affects an already chaotic situation. Our negative words breed negativity and our emotions pile up until they bubble over.

As a sort-of social experiment, I’ve begun paying attention to the amount of criticism in my life. Whether it’s comments on Facebook or Twitter, the terrible tragedies on the news, our current political debacle, feedback from our boss at work, comments from our spouse, or even the way we talk to our children, negativity is readily available.

In contrast, positive words and encouragement seem to be missing. As I began to track the ratio, I was shocked to learn it was nearly 10 to 1—ten negative impression for every positive impression.

This negativity bias is astounding. But sadly, we never slow down long enough to see it for what it is. From the news headlines to how we speak to each other to the very thoughts inside of our own minds, we have become consumed with what’s wrong instead of what’s right.

Does the amount of negativity really affect how we live our lives?

An article from the Harvard Business Review addresses what they call a praise-to-criticism ratio and the evidence was convincing. Studies showed that the highest performing teams held a ratio of six positive comments to one negative comment. On the contrary, the lowest performing teams were exposed to three negative comments for every positive one.

In performance-based environments, it has been proven that a praise-to-criticism ratio of 6 to 1 produces the most conducive environment to achieve our greatest success.

Why should our lives be any different?

Think And Grow Poor

Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich is one of the best-selling books of all-time with more than 70 million copies sold since it’s release in 1937. But curiously, the same phenomenon exists in the opposite direction. If you are surrounded by negative input and negative thoughts, you will grow into a negative person. Deep roots cannot thrive in infertile soil. Moreover, you cannot plant dissection in your life and expect to harvest peace.

Now, you can’t change the news, but you can certainly choose whether or not you spend hours every day watching it. In the same light, you can’t control your co-workers, but you can choose whether or not to engage in gossip. There’s a big difference in encountering negativity and engaging in it. The less you engage in those conversations, the less you’ll have to think about them, and the less you think about them, the less they’ll take root.

Of course, this is a biblical truth as well. The Apostle Paul made an astounding claim in his letter to the Romans when he said, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” In his letter to the Corinthians, he charges them to “take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.”

Paul is reminding these new believers that the battle of faith is fought in the mind. So whether it’s Napoleon Hill or the Apostle Paul, the same principle holds true: we become what we think.

Praise versus Criticism

As a father to four, I am constantly aware of the messages my children perceive from my actions, both verbally and non-verbally. Too often, “No” and “Don’t” and “Stop” dominate my vocabulary. But the choice reamins.

Our praise or our criticism of begins with a choice. We can choose to see with a critical eye or we can choose to see with grateful eyes.

And regardless of what has been spoken Ober your life in the past, know this:

You were created with great purpose—you are a child of God. You were fearfully and wonderfully made. Let it sink in to the parts of you that have been covered up with years and years of negative talk. Begin to believe that God has great things for your life, that He is working everything for His good purposes.

Take an assessment of your praise-to-criticism ratio by recognizing what you say. If the world is spitting out a bunch of negativity, that just means we need to ramp up our efforts.

Jesus said that the world will know us (Christians) by our love. Our words and our actions will speak the light of praise from God or they will speak the death of criticism from the enemy. We get to choose.

So the next time you want to speak criticism, pause and choose to speak praise instead. Avoid sarcasm and negative people like the plague. Surround yourself with positivity and you’ll become that light to other people. Control your thoughts and make the conscious choice to be a vehicle of praise instead of a vehicle of criticism. As you move in that direction, you’ll notice that your heart begins to change.

That’s the transformation that Paul spoke of—when the light of Christ takes root deep down in fertile, grateful soil. That is a light that no darkness can withstand.

Be that kind of light, today.



A quick update on my book, Redefine Rich:

Right now, we are in conversations with a national publisher for my book, Redefine Rich. At this time, only 800 first-edition
copies are left. It is our hope to move these final copies before the contract is finalized. You can purchase these copies at www.redefinerich.com. (Bulk pricing available)


About the Author:

Matt Ham is a speaker and author of the book, Redefine Rich. Learn more, here.

Matt Ham speaking

Matt Ham speaking

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In the fall of 2015, I created the RICH Life Challenge, a 7-day devotional series aimed at helping you live each day on purpose so that you can begin living with purpose. You can sign up for the free emails below.

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