In Building Great Relationships, Part I we discussed the importance of relationships, and the role the bid plays in developing (or destroying) relationships of all kinds.
In Part II we will talk about how to master the art of the bid. John Gottman provides five fundamental steps:
1. Gain an understanding of how you bid, and how you respond to bids of others. You may remember from Part I that most of us are not even aware of many of the bids we are receiving. Being unaware can be catastrophic as bids from others may go by without acknowledgement, or this lack of awareness may be taken as outright hostility. It’s important to pay conscious attention to your partners, colleagues, friends, etc. and identify how they make their bids, and to make real effort to respond favorably whenever possible.
Likewise, its important to actively bid yourself. One of the most common mistakes in marriage is complacency. Partners simply stop bidding for each others connections. This is the road to separation, divorce and hostility. Make the effort to show other people you are interested in the relationship.
2. Pay attention to how your emotions affect the way you bid. If you are in a difficult relationship, or generally stressed, you may find it hard to muster the energy to bid.
The first step to overcoming this difficulty is awareness. Once you have awareness of the issues that are holding your back, then you can begin to work on them either in therapy, through self-hypnosis, meditation, or other methods. Do not be afraid to seek out help. Having a strong support structure with healthy relationships is therapy in itself. Its well worth the effort.
3. Be aware if how your emotional past affects your bidding style, and your ability to form deep relationships with others. Let’s face it: we all have baggage. And this baggage affects the way we build and manage our relationships. If you come from a life’s situation that makes it difficult for you to develop close relationships, this will make it difficult for you to place yourself in the vulnerable position of bidding.
Again, awareness is the first step. The second is processing the emotional trauma (e.g. baggage) and either resolving or accepting it so you can develop the nurturing relationships that are key to happiness and mental health. Once again, don’t be afraid to seek help. Its worth it!
4. Develop emotional communication skills. In other words, learn how to bid. A big part of learning how to bid is developing the ability to empathize with others. We are all different, and we all send and receive bids differently. What you may think of as a huge bid for affection may not be received that way if its not delivered in the right way, at the right time, or even if it’s the wrong bid. Learn about how your friends, partners, colleagues give and receive bids, and what is important to them.
For example, if your girlfriend or boyfriend values creativity on Valentines, don’t go to Hallmark for a card. Make one for him or her! If a business partner is mostly concerned about a product being delivered on time, don’t expect him to be thrilled with late delivery even if you discount the product.
Likewise, learn to appreciate bids even when they are not what you would prefer. If you receive a store bought gift from a loved one when you really wanted something hand made by them, accept it gratefully. Recognize that the fact the other person bid at all has value. You may over the course of the relationship discuss what is important to you, and over time get the kinds of bids you really want.
5. Find common ground. Many organizations and families have traditions and ceremonies. These traditions and ceremonies serve as common heritage and creates strong bonds. Learn to find shared values in your relationships, and develop traditions and ceremonies that deepen the bonds in the relationship.
These five steps take practice. They are not quick fixes. But over time you will notice your relationships deepening and becoming more satisfying if you develop these skills. And your partners, friends, colleagues, etc. will learn these skills by your example as well.