couple communication

John Gottman says that we bid for contact and connection in our communications and We bid in the most ordinary ways, such as:

• Do you like my dress?
• What do you fancy doing tonight?
• You’ll never guess what my manager said to me today!

He says that we ask for connection during our bidding and there are 3 possible styles of responding:

1. We can turn away from our partner
For example:
What do you fancy doing tonight?
Dunno. (TV on in the background, partner looking at TV) I’m in the middle of this game, really not bothered

2. We can turn against our partner
For example:
What do you fancy doing tonight?
Look I really can’t be bothered with you. I’m going out and just do what you want

3. We can turn towards our partner
For example:
What do you fancy doing tonight?
Well….I had nothing in mind. Anything you want to do?
We could to the movies
I’m not sure…maybe…what’s on?
I’ll have a look-or do you want to look and I’ll start on tea?

It’s pretty plain that Turning Towards our partner yields the best results, and Gottman points out that relationships which use this style of communication are usually lasting ones. If you unpack the conversation above, the couple are not setting out to agree with each other, the point is to respond positively with attention to the bid, then connect.

It’s also important to note that bids are not always oral; they can be expressed by touch, facial expression, body language, gesture and so forth.

Hint: make you bid clear. Often your partner will appear to turn away when you engage in “vague” bidding. Know what you want and express it. Don’t expect your partner to mind read.

Hint 2: what’s underneath the bid? Okay, you’re not a mind reader, but often there is something underneath the bid (actually there always is, my teacher used to say to me, “You know, we’re never in only one conversation at a time”)-it’s generally about connection as much as anything else.

Hint 3: don’t flood when you bid. Your partner won’t be able to actively listen when you ask for many things at a time.