Imagine Sally and Ron, they have been together for several years, they are walking through their local park when Sally says, “Wow, look at that beautiful flower!” Ron is now confronted with a sliding door moment. If he takes door 1 he will turn towards Sally by saying something like, “Yes, it’s very beautiful. You really love flowers don’t you.” Or he could make a more neutral response by saying simply acknowledging her with a “Mmmm.” This is called turning towards a bid for connection.
If he takes door 2 he will completely ignore Sally’s comment and just keep walking. This is called turning away from a bid for connection. Or if he takes door 3 he might say something like, “For goodness sake, how often do we have to admire a pretty flower. They’re flowers, they’re pretty, I got it!” This is called a turning against a bid for connection.
In his research, John Gottman saw interactions like this frequently and what he observed was that Masters of Relationship turned towards their partner’s bids for connection 70% of the time, in other words, they took door 1 70% of the time. This resulted in their partner feeling wanted, acknowledged, important and loved. Masters see these bids as opportunities to listen, gather information and create points of connection that work to build trust, safety and intimacy in their relationships.
Gottman observed that Disasters of relationship only turned towards their partner’s bids for connection 30% of the time and this correlated with high levels of emotional distance between these couples as well as high levels of relationship dissatisfaction.
When our partner ignores our bids or indeed turns against our bids we feel rejected, unwanted and unloved. Over time this leads to feeling lonely. Isolated and emotionally distant. When we turn towards our partner’s bids it communicates things like: I am interested in you; I have cognitive space for you; I am aware of you; and, most importantly, I am here for you.
Gottman found that great relationships are built on these moments, over and over again. His favourite saying when someone asks him how they can improve their relationship is “by doing lots of small things often”. Turning towards your partner at least 70% of the time is one of the biggest building blocks in enhancing your friendship and intimacy system.
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