When I think of bidding, I think of poker. So I didn’t immediately connect when I heard Marita Fridjhon, CRR Global, introduce the idea of a “repair bid” in terms of making a movement to try and repair a relationship. So if you are in conflict with a co-worker, you redirect the conversation by making a positive connection by saying something like, “I can see you put a lot of effort into this report” or “I so glad you’ve taken this project on.” It’s like stopping and offering a gift of grapes; sometimes known as a peace offering. The silent message is, “I know we disagree but I still value and respect you.” But there are more than just repair bids.
The idea of emotional bidding was developed by John Gottman and is outlined in his book, The Relationship Cure. “Introducing the fundamental unit of emotional connection he calls the “emotional bid,” Dr. Gottman shows that all good relationships are built through a process of making and receiving successful bids. These bids range from such subtle gestures as a quick question, a look, or a comment, to the most probing and intimate ways we communicate.” So the act of bidding is something we all need to understand and develop in order to connect with others. It’s the nuanced give and take between two people that lets the other know that you care while it strengthens your relationship.
So here are the ways we bid and instantly connect with others:
1. Question. As Gottman espouses, a question can be simple. “Did you see the World Cup game last night?” or “Can I get you some coffee?” or “What time are you leaving?” A question is easy and almost demands connection. This brings up a memory from traveling across the country with my family in a 22 foot trailer when I was eight years old. My father probably met a thousand folks on that trip, largely because he would ask questions whether standing on line at a gas station, restaurant, national monument, ice cream stand or rest area. “Where are you from?” “How long have you been on the road?” “What do you do?” Invariably my dad would be delayed and we would all roll our eyes in unison and say, “He’s probably talking to someone.” But he would always come back with some interesting story about the guy from Minnesota who is a trout fisherman with twelve kids. The point is he knew how to connect. Ask questions.
2. Gesture. Perhaps the easiest gesture is a wave. But any positive gesture is a way to connect. I remember when we first moved to Goldsboro which is a small town in Eastern North Carolina some 14 years ago. My husband and I would be driving to our rental house and a guy sitting on his riding mower would wave at us. We would look at each other perplexed like how does he know us? Turns out that’s what you do in a small southern town. You wave at people if you know them or not. I have to say I have felt more connected since I moved here and now I wave whether walking or driving. Connect through a gesture.
3. Look. So much can be communicated in just one look. A wink. A grin. As Gottman cites in his book, when someone is gauging your communication 7% is based on the actual spoken word, 38% is on tone and pace of voice and 55% is based on facial expressions and body language. One look speaks volumes over what you are actually saying. It’s engaging. And it’s so simple. Communicate and connect by simply looking.
4. Touch. In my opinion, this is the fastest way to connect to someone although in the business setting this can be risky. It’s not like this has to be an embrace. A dear friend of mine, and the editor of this blog, used to be a cocktail waitress at the San Francisco airport (MANY years ago). I can remember her advice as we were waiting on patrons in the Sunset Bar: “Touch the customer on the back of the shoulder.” My tips went up. Literally connecting with the customer had a huge impact. Such a small bid with terrific results. Try it in an argument if you can pull it off without it being obvious.
5. Express. Express your feelings. I know I have recommended this when I facilitate the DDI training “Essentials of Leadership” which recommends, “Share thoughts, feelings and rationale.” My Baby Boomer managers cringe at sharing their feelings. Like we need to sing Kumbaya or something. Feelings are not necessarily those of love (although in bidding with a love interest, it certainly could be). Feelings can be apprehension, fatigue, uncertainty, anger or excitement. “I’m nervous about giving you this project” or “I’m tired and I’m not thinking clearly.” For me it shows authenticity. Express yourself. Contrary to what you might think, it shows confidence and trust.
Connection can be fleeting if the other party does not reciprocate. Perhaps they are on their smart phone and ignore your attempts at a gesture. Gottman refers to this as a bid buster called being mindless. So make sure you are receiving as well as giving bids. Pay attention and acknowledge the connect. How do you bid?