…are what determine winners and losers at an auction.
They also determine winners and losers in relationships — except being the highest bidder isn’t enough. Bids must be received.
Before reality TV, the Gottmans discovered the power of bids in the love lab they constructed to study the stuff marital masters are made of and the early warning signs for relationships headed south. Behind a one-way soundproof glass, they simply observed and tallied the number of bids given and received as couples interacted. A bid can be as simple as trying to make eye contact, or a touch on the shoulder, or “how was your day?” When bids are positively received, humans connect: The eye contact is returned with a twinkle, the touch is reciprocated, the question jumpstarts conversation.
When a bid is disapproved — i.e. the eye contact is met with a glare, the touch with a bristle, or the question with sarcasm — it’s not just the bid that’s dissed, the bidder feels dissed. Not good.
And when a bid is dismissed — i.e. the eye contact, touch, or question is ignored — if another attempt or two fails the bidder feels dismissed, and far worse than when disapproved. This is why the “silent treatment” eventually gets exactly the relationship it deserves. None.
A legendary story told in my household is about an evening I came home after a long day at the office. My wife was marriage mentoring a young friend in our kitchen, but she paused to ask me how my day was. As the story goes, without so much as a glance I began slowly shutting every cabinet door I found slightly ajar, finally muttering “fine” on my way up the stairs. Her young friend’s eyes were wide and her jaw agape as she tried to process what just happened.
Even if you’re like me and have the emotional wiring of a rock, there’s good news. Bidding is a learned skill. Emotional intelligence is a math problem, and it can be built through intentional, deliberate practice. As you bid more and diss less, your ratio of accepted bids goes up, which leads to more bidding. More bidding leads to more transformation and more oneness. When marital masters are the last ones standing at the wedding reception dance and are asked to tell the newlyweds how they made it 60 years, their answer is “keep a twinkle in your eye, even when you’re fighting.”
Want better relationships? Want a better team culture? Want a better time with family over the holidays?
Being fully present is the best present you can give.
Bid more. Diss less.