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Dr. Gottman’s Guide to Recognizing Bids

Bids come in all shapes and sizes. How can you be sure?

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How do we recognize bids? Dr. Gottman quips in “The Relationship Cure” that it would be a relief if everyone could create a world where “people made all their bids for connection in the form of standard written invitations… all expectations and feelings would be spelled out in vivid detail.” There wouldn’t be any more “tension or guesswork.”

In the interest of responding to others’ bids in healthy ways and learning to create a healthy pattern of interactions in your relationships, here is a list of potential bidding types. See the following to recognize ways your loved ones may be bidding for connection.

Dr. Gottman says that bids can come into your life in an infinite number of ways: some of which are “easy to see and interpret, others that are nearly indecipherable.” Whether they be verbal or nonverbal, physical, sexual, intellectual, humorous, serious, in the form of a question or statement or comment, they qualify as a “bid” for attention:

Bids may be thoughts, feelings, observations, opinions, or invitations. Easily recognizable verbal bids may sound like this:

“Sam, do you want to go get chat sometime this week?”
“Charlie, could you ask your friends if they know a good auto mechanic?”

According to Dr. Gottman, nonverbal bids include:

  • Affectionate touching, such as a back-slap, a handshake, a pat, a squeeze, a kiss, a hug, or a back or shoulder rub.
  • Facial expressions, such as a smile, blowing a kiss, rolling your eyes, or sticking out your tongue.
  • Playful touching, such as tickling, bopping, wrestling, dancing, or a gentle bump or shove.
  • Affiliating gestures, such as opening a door, offering a place to sit, handing over a utensil, or pointing to a shared activity or interest.
  • Vocalizing, such as laughing, chuckling, grunting, sighing, or groaning in a way that invites interaction or interest.

These examples can help you identify moments where you can respond to bids (and give you some ideas for making bids of your own). When you know what to look for, it leads to the formation and nurturance of satisfying, long-lasting relationships.

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Ellie Lisitsa is a former staff writer at The Gottman Institute. She holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology.

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