Whenever there is conflict or chaos in our world, you often see the quote from Mister Rogers surface on Facebook. “When I was a boy and I’d see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me ‘look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” What is it that a helper exudes? Helpers are often “other oriented.” Those people that are influential have been found to have certain qualities. They tend to have perspective – they can see how their actions or behaviors may affect others outside of themselves, they are willing to do what is necessary even if difficult, and they often have purpose. This got me thinking about bids for connection, and how our ability to turn toward bids with our partners has a profound effect on our relationship with them. Further contemplation brought me to humanity’s ability to identify and turn toward bids in the world and how this might also inspire positive change.
Dr. Gottman refers to bids as “any attempt from one partner to another for attention, affirmation, affection, or any other positive connection.” Bids show up in simple ways or more complex ways and can come in the form of verbal or nonverbal cues. A smile, wink, squeeze of the shoulder, a small gift, such as bringing home your partners favorite candy bar, asking your partner questions, making requests, or seeking advice are all forms of bids. Some can be so simple, that they can go unnoticed. I have found in my work that making bids and recognizing bids is one of the most powerful ways you can enhance and strengthen your relationship. To turn toward your partner, you must first be able to identify when bids are being made. The same is to be said with our response to the world.
Lets look at bids from an existential perspective. Bids are so formidable; they enhance our lives in ways that may go unnoticed. When we are driving and see a broken-down car on the side of the road, do we turn toward or away? When we see an elderly person struggling to get to their car with their groceries, do we turn toward or away? When we see our partner struggling to do a task such as hanging a picture or opening a jar, do we turn toward or away? Turning toward in the general sense is saying “yes” to the call to “love” selflessly. Granted, we are human, and life is busy, it is never possible to recognize every bid in life nor every bid from our partners. It is also not always possible to turn towards in the most profound ways all the time. Perhaps if you stop for the car on the side of the road, you will be late picking up your young children, or you know that your day will not allow for mowing the lawn that day like your wife asked. Turning towards is not always about doing that “thing” in the moment, but it is saying “yes” to the call.
What does it mean to say yes to the call? One of the most profound things I heard from the podcast Marriage Therapy Radio, was from Certified Gottman Therapist Zach Brittle. He discussed the power of saying “yes while saying no.” This is a way to turn toward your partner without necessarily fully engaging in the bid that was made. Say a husband struggles to identify and express emotions due to his own upbringing, and his wife’s love language is words of affirmation. She would love nothing more than a handwritten love letter from her husband on their anniversary, and in his knowing this he searches for the perfect card to express his feelings in a way he cannot. In the same way, if you cannot stop for the car on the side of the road, you make a phone call to the local police department. Or you stop and share that you cannot stay but ask the person if you can call someone for them. There are times we may miss bids from our partners as well as the bids in life. Sometimes we will have to say “yes” while saying no and there are times we will selflessly say yes to this call despite the struggle or difficulty it may bring to ourselves or our current situation.
Can you imagine what the world would look like if we were able to recognize the bids from our partners, friends, family, as well as the bids from the world? These are the moments that we are called to be selfless and to love. Recognizing and turning toward bids has the power not only to positively influence your relationship, but to also positively impact humanity.