The “Losada Line” is the name of a principle of human interaction that has generated a huge amount of controversy in recent years. Also known as the “Positivity Ratio,” this idea says that all of us have many encounters with other people throughout our day, and that in order to maintain good mental and emotional health, we need at least 2.9013 positive, uplifting or encouraging interactions, to balance against one negative encounter.
In other words, most people need to be praised, patted on the back and encouraged three times as much as they need to hear bad news, criticism or condemnation. One application might be that bosses should spend three times as much time praising their people as they do criticizing them, in order to have a company that runs more smoothly and employees that are more productive. At least, that’s the theory.
Now, this so-called “Losada Line” is VERY controversial. A large number of researchers and social scientists have criticized the study that produced that report, and raised serious questions about the validity of its research and conclusions. And some of those criticisms seem to be well-founded.
Which, in my opinion, does not take away from the basic truth that people need encouragement and a kind word.
All of us have friends who can always make us feel better, even during difficult situations. We have probably had the experience of going to the hospital to visit a sick friend, and that person ends up cheering US up. The ability to inspire, to motivate, and to encourage others is a precious gift.
Now granted, too much positivity can lead to some distortions. Sometimes we need a kick in the butt, rather than a pat on the back. If you’re at the doctor’s office, you want your physician to give you truthful answers and not just “happy talk” that ignores serious problems. But the truth is, most of us have more than enough bad news in our lives, so sometimes we need to be intentional about seeking out words of encouragement.
It’s not ignoring the truth to want to surround ourselves with companions who can offer words of hope and joy. It’s not sticking our heads in the sand to choose to focus on the good around us, to see a glass as half-full rather than half-empty. It is not weakness to want to hear from friends who can offer encouragement and inspiration when we are down.
And it’s not foolish or naive to try and be more positive and encouraging in our dealings with others. It sounds cliched and even out of date to say, but we can start by counting – and giving thanks for – our blessings.
Those of us who are Christians should have even more reason to remain optimistic. Psalm 30:5 says, “Weeping lasts through the night, but joy comes in the morning.” So let us hold on to our hope.
My prayer is that we can all learn to be the kind of neighbor, the kind of family member, the kind of friend, who can offer a word of encouragement and hope to those around us. We may discover that in blessing others, we ourselves are blessed.
At least 2.9013 times more often.