Having spent the last few weeks writing about emotional bids on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we have realized that it may be useful if we explained what in the world they look like! As Dr. Gottman quips in The Relationship Cure, it would be a relief if we could create a world in which, “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,” and there wouldn’t be any more “tension or guesswork.”  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), the human being is, in the words of Philip Roth, often a bundle of complex contradictory confusion – a “large-scale manufacturer of misunderstanding!”

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.” Bids may be thoughts, feelings, observations, opinions, or invitations. 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 connection.

In the interest of responding to your partner’s bids in healthy ways, and learning to create a healthy pattern of interactions in your relationship, we’d like to offer you a list of potential bidding types—see the following to recognize ways in which your partner may be bidding for connection:

Easily recognizable verbal bids may sound like this:

  • Oy! Abby! do you want to go get drinks sometime this week?
  • Drew, could you ask your friends if they know a good auto-mechanic?
  • Jenny, could I borrow a pencil? 

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.

We hope that these examples will help you to identify moments in which you can utilize the techniques Dr. Gottman teaches in responding to bids in your relationship! On Wednesday, look forward to learning about ways in which you can respond to bids with humor. Laughter is the most powerful tools at your disposal in making the connection you have with your partner more affectionate, playful, and fun – ultimately strengthening your bond and bringing romance into your daily interactions!

More in The Archives
Know Your 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.