Episodes

159: Steven Garff: Gottman’s Ratio

Positive-and-negative2

Today we sit down with Steven Garff, a listener to the podcast, and discuss why people leave the Church.  We examine the age old reasons and dismiss them one by one as unsatisfactory as a overarching explanation.  We then delve into a theory that does explain the whole and how it impacts the question of why some leave and why some stay in the Church?  Please take a listen as I think Steve has hit on the truth of the matter.  It may require our letting go of a false assumption or two but it’s affects will be worth their weight in gold.

Steven Garff’s paper on Gottman’s Ratio and Mormonism

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16 thoughts on “159: Steven Garff: Gottman’s Ratio

  1. This is the best description of why some people leave and some stay. I can see it in my own staying. I can see a scenario of if I had a hard-nosed bishop, I would be out of here now. If I had a much more judgmental ward, I might also have at least become inactive.

  2. For any who may be tempted to listen to this, here’s a synopsis of the first 30 minutes: Let’s review the top 10 reasons we hear people give as explanations for why people leave or stay. They might apply to some people but they don’t provide a good overall explanation. Then each “inadequate” explanation is dismissed because there are way too many exceptions. Am I the only one who thinks there might be some flawed reasoning going on here?

    • Thanks for your comment. Please know that both I and Steven Garff both validate the reasons people give for leaving. Wht this episode attempts to do is show that these reasons each have exceptions and hence while these reasons are valid, some stay and some leave over them. In the end the best indicator of why some leave and some stay over these troubling issues and valid reasons is if their overall experience with Mormonism is positive and not really if the Church is True or not.

      • I agree with Gary. There is a little flawed reasoning here too, just as with the other 10 he listed. But remember he didn’t say that those 10 reasons weren’t valid, just that they don’t explain why these leave and these stay. I will admit at first, I felt like in his paper it sounded like if you’re offended enough you’ll leave, but rather than the word offended, have enough negative interactions (I think I understand now though). However, he does have a point, anyone having overly negative experiences with any situation in life, be it a friendship, a job, a car, their church, a family member, a teacher, their school, their house, they are going to walk away from that negativity & stress, unless of course they are a masochist. I think what is missing is each individual’s risk/reward analysis. Here’s an example, that a well to do guy with no debt & great career history, has crappy verbally condescending boss. I’d say easy for him to quit, the negativity & stress is not worth it. On the plus, he has his savings and his experience to keep him a float. Risk/reward analysis. Different scenerio, a guy who has no savings, a mountain of debt, six kids and a stay at home wife, but this time his boss is 100 times worse & belittles him @ every turn. Risk/reward analysis would say, he’s not likely to leave, because he has more problems if he does. I would argue that while yes the positive/negative hypothesis does matter in most situations, but you should add the final deciding to leave or stay is a result of a subconscious risk/reward analysis. For example, to women can have the same number of negative & positive interactions with the church, they can come across the same flawed church history, even talked to each for hours about it all, one leaves, the other stays. Why the difference here? For some the risks & rewards hold more weight than the negativity or positivity. Examples, Mormonism was more than just a belief it was one women’s whole identity & whieasily the other Mormonism was just that a belief that can easily change, or one women’s spouse wouldn’t research the history the other did while the other’s spouse did and left hand in hand. It’s just a thought I had.

    • I agree with Gary. There is a little flawed reasoning here too, just as with the other 10 he listed. But remember he didn’t say that those 10 reasons weren’t valid, just that they don’t explain why these leave and these stay. I will admit at first, I felt like in his paper it sounded like if you’re offended enough you’ll leave, but rather than the word offended, have enough negative interactions (I think I understand now). However, he does have a point, anyone having overly negative experiences with any situation in life, be it a friendship, a job, a car, their church, a family member, a teacher, their school, their house, they are going to walk away from that negativity, unless of course they are a masochist. Here’s what I mean, well to do guy with no debt & great career history has crappy verbally condescending boss. I’d say easy for him to quit, the negativity & stress is not worth it. On the plus, he has his savings and his experience to keep him a float. Risk/reward analysis. Different scenerio, a guy who has no savings, a mountain of debt, six kids and a stay at home wife, but this time his boss is 100 times worse & belittles him @ every turn. Risk/reward analysis would say, he’s not likely to leave

  3. The use of the Gottman’s Ratio was fascinating. I appreciated the presentation of the idea as well. You did not say that this is THE ONLY reason people leave, but it is a compelling reason why people generally leave. Most of the reasons listed in the beginning could be validated on a one-by-one basis, however, none of them are compelling from a holistic view.

    Great episode!

  4. I thought the last 30-40 minutes really brought it all together in a very compelling way that resonated with me. The church has definitely been a net positive for me, but it makes sense that the ratio is going to vary from individual to individual and could absolutely tip the scales. I also appreciated the generous and loving tone Steve brought to the discussion. I’ll be reading his article. Thanks, Bill.

  5. Thanks for the kind words here y’all. If anyone is interested, I will be presenting on this at Sunstone next week. Details are:

    Friday, July 31
    at 3:45pm – 4:45pm
    University of Utah Olpin Student Union Bldg. Parlor A

  6. This is great! I really appreciate thinking outside the box. Based on the last 30-40 minutes it appeared to me that the presentation was saying that one or more of the 10 reasons may be valid, but that is not the overall or underlying reason which is the number of positive or negative interactions the person has had with the Church. To me that boils down to a pivot scale. If the positives for the church outweigh the negatives then the person stays. I agree with that. However, I felt the construct presented in the podcast was missing a very important element—belief and knowledge. I think that the number, strength and certainty of what are interpreted by the individual as spiritual manifestations from God telling them the Church or its teachings are correct or are the path for them should be one of the items in the construct that is weighed in the balance. Some members feel they “know” things with some degree of certainty. Others feel they believe things with various levels of confidence. But, even these spiritual knowledge and belief experiences are interpreted and re-interpreted, especially when troubling information may implicate their validity, by their current negative and positive sentiment override state. This leaves some individuals reinterpreting to doubt and some to continued belief.
    I then read Steven Garff’s article on the MormonDiscussion website and found that later in the article he’d qualified his model to cover essentially what I had just written.
    Lastly, for me the stay/go model consists of each side of the scale containing the individual experiences and relationships I have and each of the individual data I have evaluated. Each is given a final weight with some items having weight on both sides of the scale. The weighting is based:
    1) on what I sense and feel are spiritual impressions from God, 2) on what I feel inside-emotion, 3) on what I reason with my mind, and 4) from the influence of my belief in others whom I trust who provide input or example.

  7. This was so insightful! I would love to hear him speak at Sunstone. I admire his ability to be so openminded and to validate others paths while still holding firm to his own. Thanks for the wonderful interview! It has made me think deeply about my relationship with the Church, as well as with all the amazing people in my life with whom I hope to have many more positive than negative interactions, ever striving to keep our bonds strong and healthy. Thanks again

  8. Wow. This is such a good podcast episode. I love the true neutral perspective also.

    I think it happens on both sides (negative sentiment override- both from disaffected members to ward members and vice versa) but we can only control ourselves.

    Great food for thought!

  9. I’m someone who left the church a few months ago. A (doubting-making the church work) friend of mine shared this with me. I enjoyed the first half but the ending felt like it reverted back to one of the 10 reasons – people who leave stopped “dating” the church. “Make church positive and then you’ll love it again”. I think this podcast just reinforced TBM’s belief that those who leave the church had stopped doing the things they are supposed to do, or were offended by not being treated right by leaders…. the list goes on.

  10. I’m someone who left the church a few months ago. A (doubting-making the church work) friend of mine shared this with me. I enjoyed the first half but the ending felt like it reverted back to one of the 10 reasons – people who leave stopped “dating” the church. “Make church positive and then you’ll love it again”. I think this podcast just reinforced TBM’s belief that those who leave the church had stopped doing the things they are supposed to do, or were offended by not being treated right by leaders…. the list goes on. I felt validated and understood at the beginning but by the end I felt just as frustrated and misunderstood as before I started listening to this podcast.

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