At times we can get stuck focussing on all the things that our partner doesn’t do. We only see the negative aspects of our relationship, identifying all the things that aren’t working, instead of seeing what is working and the things we appreciate in our partner. When we find our emotional bank account is on the empty side or we have lots of conflict in our relationship, we might go into what John Gottman calls negative sentiment override.
When we are in negative sentiment override, we start seeing our relationship and our partner through a negative filter. The good news is there is a simple strategy that you can use to start shifting out of negative sentiment override into positive sentiment. How? By starting to appreciate your partner and your relationship
When we appreciate our partner we begin to connect with those positive feelings and memories. It actually has a bit of a snowball affect, we start to more easily recognise and appreciate the positive things that our partner does. When we voice these appreciations to our partner it also makes them feel good too and they are more likely to want to do more of these things which obviously make us feel good. And so the pattern starts to change
So where can you start? Start by thinking about one thing that you find yourself regularly appreciating about your partner. Are they thoughtful? Are they a great parent? Do they do things that are helpful to you? Once you’ve got the quality you appreciate in mind start looking out for when your partner is displaying this quality and begin sharing your appreciation.
You can share your appreciations by letting your partner know what quality you appreciate in them and give them an example of when they displayed this quality. For example "I appreciate how thoughtful you are I love that you cooked my favourite meal for dinner"
Sounds pretty easy doesn’t it? However, it can be hard to start sharing appreciations, particularly when we are in negative sentiment override. When we feel disconnected, unappreciated ourselves, or unheard in our relationship it can be hard to start communicating appreciation to our partner. It can help to set yourself a goal, maybe start with sharing one appreciation a day. You could set a reminder on your phone. The sooner you begin sharing appreciations the sooner you can start removing the negative lens and shifting back into positive sentiment.
Dr Katie Stirling