In the spirit of Thanksgiving, with family time approaching and the necessity of social grace close at hand, we’d like to give you something that you may appreciate. Today on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we offer you a Holiday Cheat Sheet – a list of minor bids that will keep you warm and happy and help you to avoid holiday stress. 

Regardless of our intentions, the holidays always seem to be a “trip.” Whether the trip is physical or psychological – whether we’re traveling to see friends and family away from home or filling our own home with friends and family – we have to make adjustments.

Uncomfortable as they may be, we usually make adjustments because we care about each other. In an ideal world, everyone would be able to agree about everything and the holidays would be easy as pie. For some reason, in reality, everyone doesn’t agree about everything, and there seems to be no shortage of surprises.

As most of us have discovered, the truth is:

Despite a family’s shared desire to get together and love each other without complication through a series of delicious food experiences, something usually comes up. As the situation unfolds, they think, how did we end up here? 

How, indeed. When placed in unfamiliar contexts, surrounded by people we don’t usually see, and put under internal or external pressure to behave in unfamiliar ways, we feel stressed out. As tension spreads, we are on guard, our senses are heightened, and we begin to feel that no one is listening to us.

To allay your concerns about bid-identification, we arm you with the following tool from Dr. Gottman’s most recent book, What Makes Love Last?. It is a list of minor bids and sliding door moments based on Dr. Gottman’s statistical analyses of couples observed in his famous Love Lab, ranked by average ease of recognition and fulfillment. 

Prick up your ears and be on the look-out for these – you may be amazed by other people’s reactions to your quick recognition and empathetic response!

List Of Minor Bids

1. Pay attention to what I say. “How do I look?” “Did you see that squirrel?!”

2. Respond to my simple requests. “Could you take Pooh for a walk?” “While you’re up, can you grab the salsa?”

3. Help or work with me. “Let’s help Grandma outside.”

4. Show interest or active excitement in my accomplishments. “Do you like my drawing?” “How were the cookies?”

5. Answer my questions or requests for information. “Phoebe’s on the phone, can you give her our address?”

6. Chat with me. “Let me tell you what happened when he came back…”

7. Share the events of your day with me. “What’ve you been up to?”

8. Respond to my joke. “Did you hear the one about…?”

9. Help me de-stress. “I’ve been cooking all day, I’m so tired.”

10. Help me problem solve. “Greta wants to go on a walk but my foot hurts.”

11. Be affectionate. “Come cuddle with me while I read.”

12. Play with me. “Let’s get the chess board!”

13. Join me in an adventure. “Do you want to explore the woods tomorrow?”

14. Join me in learning something. “Let’s go to that ice-skating class!” *

* Note: A response to the last bid does NOT have to be: “That sounds great! Can’t wait to skate!” if you actually can wait potentially forever. A positive response to the bid simply shows that you “get it” and can sound like this: “You want to learn ice-skating? Cool! Where did that come from?” 

Listening can take many forms. Let’s not forget to be aware of what is happening around us. Let’s be observant and attentive if we notice someone’s needs not being met – including our own. And let’s remember to give thanks and be grateful for the love we have!

In the words of Maya Angelou, “When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” 


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Holiday Cheat Sheet: A List Of Minor Bids
Ellie Lisitsa

Ellie Lisitsa is a staff writer at The Gottman Institute and a regular contributor to The Gottman Relationship Blog. Ellie is pursuing her B.A. in Psychology with an emphasis on Cognitive Dissonance at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.