What Are Bids?

In romantic relationships, bids are attempts we make to try to emotionally connect with our partner. These are moments when our partners are reaching out to us saying “pay attention to me.” Chances are you and your partner are already engaging in bids without being fully aware of it. Drs. John and Julie Gottman have been doing research on relationships for over 30 years. The Gottmans have found that couples who are positively responding to each other’s bids are 86% more likely to stay together. The first step in utilizing bids is gaining more awareness of them. How and when are you extending bids to your partner? Are you also accepting them?

What Do Bids Look Like?

Bids for connection can be both verbal and nonverbal behaviors. One thing to keep in mind when trying to understand bids is that in order for them to be the most effective, we must both place and accept bids. Placing and accepting bids can take many forms. The graphic below is a good starting point. As you read, I’d encourage you to take mental note of what bids you are placing and which ones you are accepting from your partner.


Infographic source: https://www.gottman.com/blog/turn-toward-instead-of-away/

How Do I Respond?

There are three distinct ways to respond to bids: turning towards, turning away, and turning against. Let’s look at an example of a bid for connection and the three different ways you might respond. You and your partner are sitting on the couch and your partner says “I’ve had such a long day at work, I’m really tired.”

Take a look at the following potential responses:

Turning towards: “You’ve been working really hard; it makes sense that you’re tired.”
Turning away: “uh-huh.”
Turning against: “I don’t know what you expect me to do about that, I’ve had a long day too.”

The three potential responses to bids all have vastly different impacts. Turning towards allows for you to connect with your partner and also shows them they are seen and heard. Turning away is a missed opportunity for connection, while turning against has a higher likelihood of leading to conflict.

Putting It into Practice

First, be realistic about your expectations. Like any new tool there will be some trial and error, and there may be times it works really well and other times you feel like you’re crashing and burning. Communication with your partner about what goes well or does not go well is key for utilizing bids efficiently. When you reach out to your partner to connect, think about what it is you’re wanting from your partner. Is it to be seen or heard? Acknowledged? An attempt to connect over a shared interest? Identifying what you’re looking for will help you provide your partner feedback if they miss your bid and vice versa.

Like any new practice, be patient with yourself and your partner. Just because a bid was missed doesn’t mean there was malintent. Be kind with each other as you try this out. Remember, there’s no wrong way to connect, rather, just new information and tools that will give you the awareness of when connection is taking place, and how you can facilitate it with each other.

Want to hear more about Bids for Connection? Watch now!