Effective communication is the cornerstone of a healthy and thriving relationship. However, in the complex dance of partnership, miscommunication, misunderstandings, and conflict can often take center stage. John Gottman’s couples therapy, built upon the concept of “bidding,” offers couples a valuable tool to navigate these challenges and foster stronger connections.
At its core, bidding is a simple yet powerful concept. It involves making an effort to connect with your partner through verbal or non-verbal cues, seeking their attention, and inviting them into a moment of shared emotional connection. It can be as straightforward as asking a question, sharing a thought, or even just making eye contact and smiling. The response to these bids can significantly impact the quality of communication within a relationship.
In Gottman’s research, he identified three possible responses to bids: turning towards, turning away, and turning against. Let’s explore these responses and how they play out in real-life scenarios.
- Turning Towards: This response occurs when one partner acknowledges, engages, and shows interest in their significant other’s bid for connection. Imagine a scenario where one partner says, “I had a tough day at work.” The other partner could respond by saying, “I’m sorry to hear that. Can you tell me what happened?” This response not only acknowledges the bid but also invites further communication, fostering emotional intimacy.
To work through communication problems using this concept, couples should actively practice turning towards each other’s bids. This means being attentive, responsive, and showing empathy towards each other’s thoughts, feelings, and needs. It’s about making your partner feel heard, understood, and valued.
- Turning Away: This response occurs when a partner disregards or dismisses their significant other’s bid for connection. In the same scenario of a tough day at work, a turning away response might involve one partner responding with indifference or changing the topic entirely. This can lead to feelings of neglect and frustration.
To address communication problems related to turning away, couples should be mindful of their responses. It’s essential to recognize when you’re not fully present in the conversation and make an effort to turn towards your partner instead. Active listening, validation, and open dialogue are key to overcoming this hurdle.
- Turning Against: This response involves a negative or hostile reaction to a bid for connection. In our example, a turning against response might manifest as a partner responding with criticism or defensiveness when their significant other shares their difficult day. This can escalate conflicts and erode trust.
To resolve communication issues related to turning against, couples must cultivate a safe and non-judgmental environment for expressing thoughts and emotions. It’s crucial to communicate with kindness and avoid engaging in hurtful behaviours like blaming, name-calling, or sarcasm. Instead, focus on constructive problem-solving and compromise.
By understanding these responses and consciously practicing turning towards bids for connection, couples can transform their communication patterns and strengthen their relationships. Here are some practical steps to incorporate Gottman’s bidding concept into your relationship:
- Mindfulness: Pay attention to your partner’s bids for connection. Be aware of your own responses and strive to turn towards them with empathy and interest.
- Active Listening: When your partner speaks, make an effort to listen actively. Ask open-ended questions to encourage further sharing, and avoid interrupting or judging.
- Express Emotions: Share your thoughts and feelings openly and honestly. Vulnerability can be a powerful catalyst for deepening emotional intimacy.
- Practice Patience: Recognize that change takes time. Be patient with yourself and your partner as you work through communication problems and establish healthier patterns.
- Seek Professional Help: If communication problems persist or become overwhelming, consider seeking the guidance of a couples therapist trained in Gottman’s methods. They can provide valuable insights and strategies tailored to your specific relationship dynamics.
In conclusion, John Gottman’s concept of bidding offers couples a valuable roadmap for working through communication problems and building stronger connections. By embracing the principles of turning towards, fostering active listening, and cultivating emotional intimacy, couples can navigate the complexities of communication with greater understanding and empathy, ultimately leading to healthier and more fulfilling relationships. Remember, a successful relationship is built one bid for connection at a time.
Contact me for more information on how couples therapy can imrpove communication in your relationship today.
I am experienced in working with diverse populations and have helped individuals from various backgrounds find healing and restoration. My practice is LGBTQ+-affirming and culturally sensitive, committed to providing an inclusive and non-judgmental space for all clients.
Office Location: 1617 Taylor St, Port Coquitlam, BC V3C 4G7