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relationship advice

Using the Yes word

Be positive and say yes

Importance of saying yes and being positive

Asked to sum up what he had learned about successful relationships, Dr John Gottman, who has been studying marriage and divorce for the past 35 years, said that a successful relationship has lots of interactions filled with yeses*.

Good relationships with your partner, friends and family are about a continuing flow of small moments of observation, positive thinking, attachment, intimacy, and give and take.

Successful couples look for ways to accentuate the positive, and they try to say yes as often as possible. That doesn't mean that people in good relationships don't have disagreements and arguments. Nor does it mean that you have to give up your dreams and aspirations, or give into to someone who is being unreasonable, or seeks to control your every move.

  Examples of yeses in a conversation
  Yes, I would love a cup of coffee
  Yes, I will pick up some food on my way home.
  Yes, I would like to go to the gym this evening.
  Yes, I will go with you to the hospital.
  Yes, let's go and see a movie at the weekend.
  Yes, and I think we should go away for Easter.
  Yes, you should go for the promotion.  


At work, relationships with bosses, colleagues, customers and suppliers will only really flourish if you listen to and acknowledge each other's views and ideas, feelings and concerns. The same rule applies to relationships with classmates and friends. Your interactions must have more yeses in them than nos.

If your exchanges and interactions are full of nos, you may find it hard to switch overnight to ones full of yeses. What is important is that you and your partner recognize that exchanges populated mainly with nos have a negative impact on one or both partners' emotions and feelings, and they often lead to big arguments, or one or both partners withdrawing.

Watch this video by John Gottman about the "magic relationship ratio" where he talks about the importance of saying positive things to each other.


Monitor your interactions and discussions and give yourselves time to improve your communication and interaction. Rate your exchanges on a scale of 1 to 10 at the beginning of the week, set yourself an improvement goal, rate things again at the end of the week, and review where you have got to.  Repeat the process until you both think that things have got much better.

* Making Relationships Work.  A Conversation with Psychologist John M. Gottman by Diane Coutu. Harvard Business Review, December 2007.