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There’s a large and fast-growing support industry to help us develop our “softer” relationship skills; many CEOs hire executive coaches, and libraries of self-help books detail how best to build and manage relationships on the way to the top.

Despite all the importance attached to interpersonal dynamics in the workplace, however, surprisingly little hard scientific evidence identifies what makes or breaks work relationships.

Gottman also points out that good relationships aren’t about clear communication—they’re about small moments of attachment and intimacy.

Still, he warns, too much of a good thing can be a menace in the workplace, where simple friendships can spill over into emotional affairs.

Gottman discusses these and other nuances of his wisdom, acquired from experience and research, in this edited version of Coutu’s conversation with him.

Let me put it this way: If I had three hours with a couple, and if I could interview them and tape them interacting—in positive ways as well as in conflict—then I would say that I could predict a couple’s success rate for staying together in the next three to five years with more than 90% accuracy.

Gottman, executive director of the Relationship Research Institute, is leading the way.

If companies were more effective in helping executives handle their relationships through difficult times, they would see the company’s productivity soar and find it much easier to retain leadership talent.

We know, for instance, that the personal chemistry between a mentor and his or her protégé is critical to that relationship’s success, but we don’t try to work out what the magic is, at least not in any rigorous way.

The absence of hard data and painstaking analysis exacts a heavy price: When relationships sour, as they easily can, there’s little guidance on what you can do to patch things up.

Gottman adds that good relationships aren’t about clear communication—they’re about small moments of attachment and intimacy.

It takes time and work to make such moments part of the fabric of everyday life.

Few people can tell us more about how to maintain good personal relationships than John M.

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