Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Love Lab

You might say John is a professional "people watcher".

He makes his living studying couples and can predict with astonishing accuracy which ones are about to split up. In fact, John can predict with 91% accuracy whether a couple will thrive or fail after watching and listening to them for just five minutes.

His methods, which rely on analyzing human emotion and microexpressions, were featured in Malcom Gladwell's book "Blink". Taking a detailed, scientific approach to studying relationships, John's work has been published in over 190 papers, and he is the author or co-author of 40 books.

John Gottman may be a Ph.D., but increasingly he and his wife Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman are becoming known throughout the relationship counselling world as the remarkable brainiacs behind the "Love Lab", otherwise known as the Relationship Research Institute near the University of Washington in Seattle.

John points out, "We are as social as bees and Von Frisch discovered the language of bees by going right to the hive and watching them dance. So we will discover the human dance". And it by observing couples in the "Love Lab", John and his research team came to discover the threat posed by what he calls "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse". These are the four major emotional reactions destructive to any relationship:

- Criticism
Global negative statements about your partner’s character or personality.

- Contempt
Sarcasm, cynicism, name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery and hostile humor can be poisonous because they convey disgust.

- Defensiveness
This is a way of blaming your partner and can escalate the conflict.

- Stonewalling
A partner may disengage from the relationship, signaled by looking away without saying anything and acting as though he/she doesn’t care about what the other is saying.

And part of overcoming any conflict and the damage done by "The Four Horsemen" will rely to a large degree on what John refers to as the "Magic Relationship Ratio".

Judging by the numbers, there is a sizable enough market for these insights. According to Gottman, divorce statistics in North America remain high.

- 67% of first marriages end in divorce over a 40-year period.
- 50% of these divorces occur within the first 7 years.
- The divorce rate for second marriages is approximately 10% higher than for first time marriages.

John Gottman's goal is to use empirical, scientific evidence to reserve those trends and "be like the guy who invented Velcro. Nobody remembers his name, but everybody uses Velcro".

How many of John's ideas have stuck with you today?

“Every relationship experiences conflict and periods of alienation, but the difference between the masters and disasters is their ability to repair”

P.S. ... Want to know more about what actually goes on in the "Love Lab"?

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