News and Views


Near the end of last week's column, I used the term "love tank," an apt name for use in relation to marriage and family of a concept developed in the context of the workplace and business world.  Originally, the concept was developed by Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D., also known as the "Father of 'Strengths Psychology,'" and is well described in the small book, "How Full Is Your Bucket?" which is co-authored by Tom Rath and Dr. Clifton.
 After the Korean War in the 1950s, it was found that 38% of Prisoners of War held by the North Koreans died, the highest death rate in U.S.A. military history.  Investigation revealed that the extreme death rate could be best explained by the relentless negativity enforced by the North Korean captors.
 Donald Clifton wondered, "Can positivity have an even stronger impact than negativity?"  He developed the concept that everyone has an invisible bucket, and that we are at our best when our buckets are overflowing, and at our worst when our buckets are empty.  Everyone also has an invisible dipper, and in every interaction, we can use our dipper to fill or to dip from the other's bucket.  Whenever we choose to fill others' buckets, we also fill our own.  Positive interactions such as giving recognition, appreciation or praise fill buckets, while negative interactions such as criticism or complaint dip from buckets.  When recognition and praise are given in the workplace, there is an increase in productivity, engagement, employee retention, and in the loyalty and satisfaction of customers.  Health also improves.
 Research also discovered useful ratios between positive and negative interactions in the workplace.  For positive interactions to have a positive effect, there has to be a ratio of at least three positive interactions for each negative one.  The greatest productivity occurred when the ratio was five positive to one negative, but if there were more than thirteen positive for each negative, productivity would decrease again, perhaps because of a perception of insincerity.
 Five basic strategies in utilizing Clifton's work are:
•  Prevent Bucket Dipping
•  Shine a Light on What Is Right
•  Make Best Friends
•  Give Unexpectedly
•  Reverse (Personalize) the Golden Rule ie. Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.
 Right here in Alberta, Dan Ohler made the shift from farming to becoming an interesting, humorous and effective speaker about relationship and community building, and works with his wife coaching married couples wanting to improve their home-relationship.  Recognizing trust as the single most foundational part of any relationship, he speaks of having a trust account with each person we encounter.  Every interaction is either a deposit or a withdrawal.  Deposits include smiles, kind words of praise, please and thank you, a ride home, keeping agreements, all positive interactions.  Withdrawals are any negative interactions such as anger, contempt, control, criticism, blaming, withdrawing etc.  Couples stay in the Ohler's home for two or three days of transformational coaching in more positive ways of relating with help personalized to their unique situation and relationship.  The Ohlers live at Sangudo and have web sites at  and
 When discussing the Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman uses the term 'love tank.'
 Whether at home with our spouses and children or in the workplace, we can improve the quality of our relationships by learning to be positive with them, by filling their buckets, making deposits in their trust accounts, filling their love tanks.  This is effective when we make genuine shifts in our basic attitude by choosing to think positively and to focus more on them to learn the ways in which we can best make them feel rewarded and loved as what means most to one person may be meaningless or negative to another.  By thinking of every interaction as either filling a bucket or making a deposit to an account, or the reverse of emptying the bucket or making a withdrawal, we have an easily understood and remembered system for monitoring our own behaviour, our own contribution to the relationship.  This fits with recognition that we can only change and control ourselves and our own attitudes and behaviours.  At the same time, as we contribute to others' sense of well being and build trust with them, we give them both freedom and motivation for change.
 The discovery that there is an ideal ratio for positive to negative or corrective feedback in the workplace fits with Kimmel's descriptions of the three types of love we need to give in order to improve relationships with controllers, as mentioned in the third of this series of columns.  He writes of Tender Love, using your heart, to show that you value this person of worth, to show that you understand and empathize, to show an interest in this person's interests.  He writes of Truthful Love, using your head, to confront the controller with the facts, not feelings, about how specific behaviour affects you, confront directly without judging to place the responsibility for behaviour on the person doing it.  He writes of Task Love, using your hands, to meet the needs of the other person and give credibility to both the Tender Love and the Truth Love.  Remember, the ratio is a minimum of three positive to one corrective, with the ideal ratio of five positive to one corrective, but not more than thirteen positive to one corrective. 
 The best thing about this whole concept is that when we fill someone else's bucket, when we make a deposit, we are also filling our own bucket or making a deposit in our own account. We gain when we initiate positive interactions with others, as we adopt positive attitudes and actions, as we become more thoughtful and concerned about others, as we actually learn to live the Biblical directive to "Love your neighbour as yourself."

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