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208. Improve relationships with this simple tool (bids for connection)

Years ago I learned a simple tool that has improved all my relationships. This tool is about looking for the cues that others are giving us – and using those times to connect. They are called Bids For Connection, a Gottman term. I will outline what bids are, ways to respond, and how to simplify the process. 

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Key points and related links

Full transcript (unedited)

0:00
Hey friends, it’s Shawna, your nerdy girlfriend and counselor from simpler purpose.ca. Welcome to this and on purpose podcast or right away. Announcement, I mentioned probably in the emails, at least maybe on the podcast, I can’t remember that I will be wrapping up the podcast for the summer. And at this point, what I am deciding to do is actually retire the podcast, at least for the time being, I just shared this in the Patreon as well, because I’ll be shutting that down. The main reason is that I am taking on a new job and going to be working more hours there. So it’s a matter of me just juggling the hours that I do work because I do mainly kind of work school time hours. So I need to be very discerning on the work I choose to do. And I wanted to really choose the work that I really love the most. And for me, that’s a one to one clients. So I’m going to unpack this a lot more, I’m going to have a retirement party episode coming up, I’m going to ask for your input your feedback. So watch out for an email on that coming soon. If you are part of the simple Saturday’s email, you will get that, if not, I recommend signing up for that I will be continuing this simple Saturday’s email, I’ll put a link in the show notes on that. So in light of that, I want to get to the topic. And I’m actually really excited that this is one of the final topics that I’m sharing on the podcast, because to me, it is such a great tool. And it’s such a great practice to bring into our relationships. And I’ve been talking a lot about relationships in the Patreon this month in here on the podcast. And this is a tool that is from the goblins. If you’ve heard of the goblins, they are a couple of psychologists and researchers. They are a couple. And they are all so these things and they use study relationships mainly love relationships. And their training for therapists is so good. I’ve taken it. I’ve loved it. There’s so many practical tools and simple concepts. And this is one of them. It is called bids for connection bids for connection and I might just call them bids. While I’m talking about this. The first time I heard about bids for connection was at a time when we were at a really challenging time in our marriage. We had a lot of walls up a lot of resentment a lot of scorekeeping, a lot of fear a lot of pride. I’ve shared a bit on this on the on the blog, so I’ll make sure to link that in the show notes. But I was probably looking at things on connection or how to improve our communication or something noble, like how to get my husband to validate me more, I came across this article and explained what bids for connection are and how they can be a really basic way to improve your relationship and I text it to my husband. And at this time he was really used to being peppered with my hashtag advice. But this is something he actually read and reply to he said something like that was good. I agree. And for me at that time, it felt really pivotal because I had sent him lots of things in the past always didn’t get an answer. So this felt to me kind of like answered prayers level to have that response from him. A bit for connection is any attempt you make at engaging with another person. This can be verbal attempts, direct questions, or comments or even comments that aren’t necessarily directed at you. Like someone sitting beside you on the couch and muttering Oh, there’s never anything good on TV. They can be nonverbal attempts, facial expressions, body language, physical closeness. So they can be as simple as your kid saying, I hurt my finger, or your partner saying I read an interesting article today. Are your kids sitting down and just like big sigh your kids saying watch this, your partner saying something about the game last night, even if you don’t even know what the game was or who’s playing what these days. The purpose of the bed is to interact with you and ultimately connect with you. A bit might be saying play with me. Join me, help me, see me laugh with me, support me. problem solve with me. Enjoy me there’s different purposes that a bit can have the Kaufman’s have a little bit of a list, I’ll make sure to link that in the show notes. Bits of connection are important. First of all, we can just see right off the bat that they make someone feel seen and supported. And this is really a basis for safety in a relationship. In Gottman terms, they are important because they’re considered an experience of positive effect. And they use this metaphor of adding to the emotional bank have a relationship that our emotional bank needs more positive than negative experiences. And if we can fill our emotional bank proactively with positive experiences, then when we’re in a state of conflict, or something negative occurs, we aren’t going to run a deficit in that and obviously something to think about it’s easier to build up positive experiences when we are not in conflict. This is more something they studied more in love relationships but in My experience is that it applies to all relationships that we actually care about. I definitely see it in talking with my own family and my own kids. So we have someone offering a bid for connection. And there’s three responses we could have. One is turning towards so we’re engaging positively, we’re acknowledging the bid. Someone says something about nothing being on TV, and you might respond. I know, right? Like, I feel that way too, that I never find something I want to watch. Or your kids saying, I feel like an idiot today. And you might respond with like, Oh, that’s so tough. What’s happening. When we turn towards we’re telling the person they matter, even if the topic feels so mundane. We’re saying it’s important to me because you’re important to me. I even think of how we physically turn towards each other. So often, we don’t even look up and make eye contact, which is so crucial. So turn to words, turn your eyes toward someone turn your body towards someone. The Gottman approach their research by looking at what makes the difference between couples who stay together and couples who separate what, what equates to failure and what equates to success. And when it comes to bids for connection, couples that stay married, tune to one another 86% of the time. It’s like an A right? It’s not 100%, that’s for sure. But those in the studies who separated they turn towards each other only 33% of the time, because here’s the other two options, turning away or turning against. So turning away, it’s ignoring it’s not noticing and not responding, or responding in ways that actually say I’m not listening, which could be changing the subject. When we turn away, we’re sending the signal that their subject is not important, we’re not present with them, or their subject that they’re talking about. It’s just not worth our reaction, we might just change the subject altogether. So naturally, what a person takes away from that is, this isn’t important to you. I’m not important to you. turning against means we’re responding dismissively, negatively, we might have irritation, we might snap, we might give them a look, glare at them, blame them point out how we were right about something how they were wrong, we might criticize, we might condemn, I think of the example of a wife coming home and a husband or swap partners, whatever. One partner saying we did that garden in the back and the other partner says Why would you waste your time doing that that is turning against that is eroding that connection. I want to mention a couple of things here. The first is our responses don’t have to be over the top. That training video for the Gottman training, it was really interesting because it was a normal couple and they kind of put them in this lab that feels like a home. So if we’re supposed to imagine them being at home, and one of them is staring out the window and the other one’s just right in the other room. It’s all open watching TV. And the person looking out the window is saying something about what they see out there like oh, the clouds are rolling in something about the garden back home. And it’s actually the man staring at the TV and he made some comment back like, oh, rain will be good. And it wasn’t dismissive. It was just simply responsive. And she came and she sat on the couch beside him. And he said something similar about what was on TV, and she just made a gentle comment back. They didn’t need over the top responses. And now we have to unpack it and get like questions and I have to be in your business, they were just present with one another. Sometimes turn towards does require us to tap into empathy, or curiosity. And I think a key here that I hear is that we stay in a place of non judgment, where we’re just open and present and where we want to listen to this person. And we’re not using this as an opportunity to put on judgment or criticism.

8:44
And then when it comes to kids, I want to preface this that we’re not ever looking for 100% As parents, especially when your kids are younger, they might be doing things you don’t necessarily want to encourage, we might need other tactics like redirection or setting boundaries. And I think of the research around the term good enough parent. And what that research tells us is that we cannot and should not be 100% emotionally attuned to our kids every time not only because they need to start to learn these skills on their own, we need a gradual weaning from being their emotional attunement and responding to all of their needs. But because it’s also an unrealistic expectation of a parent, mother or father, at the end of the day, they need us most of the time to feel like they are securely attached to us. Either way, I think it’s important to just simply do the work of noticing our kids behavior and their language being a bit for connection like all their jumping onto my lap, they might want to have fun with me, they might want my attention or they’re putting my their head on my shoulder while we’re sitting beside each other. I remember one of my kids being about six years old and they put their head on my shoulder and I was just like soaking it all in and a bit of time goes by and and they get up and then They say you might, you must not want me there because you didn’t put your head back on mine was so glad. They told me because I was having a moment like I was in it. But they were looking for a more clear response. So that was them needing me to actually turn into them and turn towards them. As our kids get older, they’re still bids for connection. They’re telling you, their teacher sucks, they probably feel like they need some support with that, your kid asks you to bake with them. And I hate baking, it makes such a mess. But I know that they want to do something fun, and they want you to be around for it. They tell you have a band concert of a basketball game or a practice next week, that’s a bid. They want you to show interest, they might not even want you to be there. If you’re doing something in another room, like you’re working, or you’re watching TV, and they just come in, and they’re just there. And they can come in under the guise of a lot of different things are being silly or whatever. But they are there because they likely want to connect with you. A real common one is if kids these days showing you a funny video, or teaching you about their slang or a song that they heard, they want to connect with you they’re overall my goal in sharing this topic with you is that so you can notice this notices in yourself and notices in others, we can notice our own bids, because we still have needs to write we are putting out bids for connection, we might even learn that we could try some different strategies to relay our bids, especially if our partner doesn’t know what bids are, they might miss the cues, that maybe we’re looking for some chitchat, maybe we want some support, maybe we want to play a game, maybe we want to hug. And of course, remember, in relationships, especially love relationships, we have conditioned one another on what to expect from our past actions towards each other of turning away, towards or against. So there might be some repairs that need to be made there we have not turned towards often enough, we have not supported emotional safety and taught the other that they can come to us that might be something we need to repair. A big thing I take away from the concept of bids for connection and in looking at it as a practice in how I show up in relationship is that it is about coming out of my own world and my own self, and out into what’s around me like looking up and seeing what’s around me. I’m coming out of my own inner world, this person is coming out of theirs. And we’re both finding this common place where we can be together be to gather presence. Finally, I hope this helps you just notice it in others because we all struggle to understand when we’re feeling alone or in need of validation or support or companionship. I bet even in explaining what bids for connection are you looked back on recent things and realized in yourself that you are offering a bid for connection, I bet you can look back on it as a child and see the things you were doing as a bid for connection. But we didn’t have this language or awareness that what we wanted was some fun or a hug or someone to help us we often don’t realize that. So I hope that this can give you a little bit more language and awareness around that. And ultimately hope you know, if you see this in others, you can remind yourself this person wants to connect with me. And the more we respond, the more bids for connection we respond to the more connected we’re going to feel, the more safe the relationship will feel. Even if we don’t solve problems, which I think we all need to step back from trying so hard to do. We do this so often where if someone else is uncomfortable emotionally, we just want to fix it. We just want them to feel comfortable again so that we can feel comfortable. I want you to be okay, so I can be okay. So bits for connection aren’t always for the purpose of emotionally solving someone’s problems. We can’t always fix it. But we can just be there. I can just be here with you. I might not be able to solve this. We can talk about ideas. But I’m here for you. And that must be so tough. Can I do anything? We need to ask permission to solve people’s problems before we just try to jump in there and change how they’re feeling and doing things putting our way onto them. Because that’s not what people always need. They just need to be seen and validated and supported. And ultimately I hope enjoyed really this is this is what’s changed things for me is it helps me to enjoy the people around me. When someone offers a bid for connection. I want to I want to respond most of the time, right? Like sometimes I’m busy enough to say wait, especially with the kids like I’ll be there in a minute just wait. But I want to show up for that bid for connection. They’re offering me something of themselves. And I want to ask a question or express empathy or anything statement I can make to just make that person feel heard. Unlike I’ve processed it, I didn’t go to my own world and my own self, I stayed with you there, which is a hard shift to make. Because we are so used to turning it back about us to making the conversation back about us. to it, we might think we’re connecting. But often the other person doesn’t actually feel like we’ve heard them or stayed with them there. We’ve come back into our own world. That’s why I call it a practice because it really is a practice of listening in staying and responding. I’ve probably made this meta and made it something you know, more bigger than what it is. But I think it’s because I’ve been trying to do this for so long. So start simple. Start simple guys. If your someone around you is offering you a bid for connection, keep it simple, a simple response, something warm, something non judgmental, a question is great. A follow up question is great if it’s coming from genuine curiosity. Empathy is always helpful. I’ve got some episodes on that wherever you can express any reflection of what they might be feeling if that feels appropriate. But just start simple and just start looking for ways to respond. And I hope that you experiencing experience, the connection that it can bring, and just the enjoyment you can start to have of another person in your life and ideally, you’re reciprocated. You’re getting that to, that’s what I would hope for you. Alright, the retirement party episode is coming in June. I’m just going to say everything I have to say about that for then, and I will wrap up with Have a great week.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

 

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