The first time I read the term "bids for connection" (coined by couple specialists Drs. John and Julie Gottman of the Gottman Institute), a small spark lit up in my brain. According to the Gottmans, a bid for connection is "an attempt to get attention, affection, and/or acceptance."
What a simple, yet powerful label for the ways human beings try to connect to one another—ways that are becoming more difficult to recognize every day. To me, the idea encompasses more than just couples. This is for parents and children, students and teachers, coworkers, friends, and all different types of relationships.
People are desperate for connection with one another, but feel profound shame for needing it. Brené Brown, in her Netflix special "Call to Courage," said that joy is one of the most vulnerable and terrifying feelings. We desire to feel happy and understood, but put ourselves down for expressing this to our significant others. Connection heals—and if we pay attention, we might realize that most people bid for connection every day.
But bids for connection, more often than not, show up as something different. Due to the way society has shaped us, we are often hesitant to ask for our emotional needs to be met in an open and vulnerable way.
Our bids, therefore, often show up in different ways. Here are seven of them.
1. Sharing stories about our day.
A child telling their parent about an injustice that happened at school today. A man telling his partner about how annoying his boss is. A girl telling her friend how frustrated she is with her boyfriend.
Whenever we share a story–regardless of what type of story it is–we are making a bid to connect. We hope to feel heard, understood, valued, and supported.
2. Grasping for attention.
“Hey, did you see those new flowers that the neighbor planted?” “Oh, my gosh! Look at that dog—it’s so cute!” “Mom, look at this YouTube video!”
Rarely is it the flower, the dog, or the YouTube video that’s important. Rather, what matters is the way we respond to their bid for connection.
3. Sharing accomplishments.
When people share their success stories with us—“look at the drawing/article/cake/dish I made”—they are trying to get us to validate them. They would like us to recognize what they did and, consequently, recognize who they are.
4. Sending a post or link.
This is one of the most common things I see in our digital era. Sharing a post or a link sends the message of “I saw this and thought about you. By sending it to you, I’d like to share it.” It’s an indirect way of connecting with someone else and sparking a conversation. Regardless of how trivial it may seem, the hidden message is extremely powerful.
5. Aiming for a hug or physical affection.
When someone reaches out to hug someone else—or give them a squeeze on the arm, a pat on the back, or some other means of physical contact—they’re expressing their need to feel connected.
6. Talking about a common interest.
This is the IRL (in real life) version of sending a post or a link. Talking about a common interest—whether it's sports, music, film, politics, or culture—is a way in which people reach out to someone else. It sends a message of “I found this interesting and thought we could talk about it together.”
7. Expressing a concern.
This may show up while reading the news or having someone ask you about a recent problem you had. When someone brings up a concern, they're indirectly letting you know “I care about you.”
However a bid of connection shows up, we can do one of three things in response:
- Turn towards: Respond to the bid and connect.
- Turn against: Respond to the bid angrily or aggressively.
- Turn away: Ignore the bid.
We are in a time where we need to attempt to connect with one another, take care of each other, and allow ourselves to be vulnerable with one another. It’s time to heal—and we must do it collectively.