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Choose To Turn Toward Others

Updated: Jun 12, 2022

“Successful long-term relationships are created through small words, small gestures, and small acts.” John Gottman

My husband, John, was totally engrossed in learning Portuguese when the phone rang. I could hear the voice of our ten-year-old granddaughter, Sophia, on the line. “Hello Papa.”

My ears perked up as I realized John’s predicament. “To turn or not to turn.” What I mean by that is that John is at a choice point. He can stay on his present track, refuse to be interrupted (not turn), OR he can choose to shift his attention to Sophia (turn).

Long story made short is that he did choose to shift his attention and connect with his granddaughter. But why?

John said he sensed the call was a little signal. If Sophia could have explained her signal, it might have sounded like this. “Hey, Papa. I am needing and wanting a little attention. I am hoping you can give it to me.” He was able to receive her cue, was touched by it, and able to lovingly respond.

John did, what relationship expert John Gottman calls, one of the most important things a person can do who wants to improve relationships and build trust. John noticed what Gottman calls a “bid” – some little sign that another makes when seeking connection, attention, affection, or affirmation.

Gottman says when someone gives a bid, we have a choice. Our choices made time and time again, hugely affect the quality of our relationships. Those people who turn toward each other over eighty-six percent of the time (Gottman is not only a psychologist, but also a math and data guy) find themselves in high-trust, strong relationships.

How does trust fit in with this? Trust is a foundational in strong relationships. Gottman believes that trust is built over time when a person perceives that we have his or her interests at heart, sometimes even at the expense of our own interests. It is as much, or more, “we” than “me.”

As I have looked at people’s comments, and talked to some, who have worked with Gottman’s “love science”; it seems that understanding this notion of “bids,” recognizing when you and others are sending them out, and noticing how you and others respond, is a huge help in making relationships stronger.

One person also said something like this, “I love the whole ‘bids – turning toward thing’, because I can do this by myself. I can do this even if my spouse, co-workers, or friends or even my dog is or is not on board. And it works! I see my relationships changing. They are deeper…with me just doing this simple thing…noticing when someone is asking for attention and giving it as best I can at that moment.”

Sure, there are times when we need to block out interruptions and take care of necessary tasks and deep dive into projects, but let’s remember the importance of good relationships. They are absolutely the royal road to the good life – health, success, and well-being. Bad relationships are awful not just in the way they affect our emotions, but also our health. (In one study following 9,000 people, those who reported “adverse” close relationships had 34% increase in the risk of developing heart problems, even after taking weight, and other factors into consideration. That is big!)

John and I sometimes kick ourselves in the derriere for some of the relationship blunders we have made in the past with friends, family, and especially in our own marriage. When we ask ourselves why we were so lousy, we remind ourselves that we just didn’t “know no better.” We did not have the skills. We did not even realize that good relationships required attention or intention or skills.

We fell into some old ridiculous nonsense that if we had to work on our relationship, we married the wrong person. We had other more pressing interests; good relationships just happened naturally anyway. What baloney. It would not surprise me to hear that sort of naivete has led to the fifty percent divorce rate in our country.

Now, thanks to people like John (and his wife Julie) Gottman, we all have a science of relationships, we can do better. Now could be the perfect time to examine, learn, and experiment with relationship skills.

You can read or find videos online about the Gottmans’ research. Start with those relationships you most care about.

Notice this thing called “bids.” How do you give bids? How easy is it for you to realize when someone has made a bid? How do you usually respond to others’ bids? What is your track record? Would you like to kick it up – particularly with those significant others in your life?

Play with the idea that bids are not always annoying interruptions, but rather could very well be an opening, an opportunity, for building trust and making a relationship stronger.

“How might you Journey to The Good Life by responding to small calls for connection?”



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