Making Relationships Work: A Conversation with Psychologist John M. Gottman

  • Reference: HBS-R0712B-E

  • Number of pages: 8

  • Publication Date: Dec 1, 2007

  • Source: HBSP (USA)

  • Type of Document: Article

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Unless you're a hermit, you can't avoid relationships. And your professional career certainly won't go anywhere if you don't know how to build strong, positive connections. Leaders need to connect deeply with followers if they hope to engage and inspire them. Despite the importance of interpersonal dynamics in the workplace, solid research on the topic is only now beginning to emerge--and psychologist John M. Gottman, executive director of the Relationship Research Institute, is leading the way. His research shows that how we behave at work is closely related to how we behave at home. Few people understand personal relationships better than Gottman, who has studied thousands of married couples for the past 35 years. He and his colleagues use video cameras, heart monitors, and other biofeedback equipment to measure what goes on when couples experience moments of either conflict or closeness. By mathematically analyzing the data, Gottman has provided hard scientific evidence for what makes good relationships. In this interview with HBR senior editor Diane Coutu, Gottman emphasizes that successful couples look for ways to accentuate the positive: They try to say yes as often as possible. Even thriving relationships, however, still have room for conflict. Individuals embrace it as a way to work through essential personality differences. 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.


Interpersonal communications