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How Do You Respond To Emotional Bidding?

How Do You Respond To Emotional Bidding?
How Do You Respond To Emotional Bidding?

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to explore the need to connect, and the 3 critical ways that we respond
when someone bids to connect emotionally with us.

First a quick update:

“Stop Taking Me For Granted”
When we take someone for granted we are failing to give him or her attention, failing to appreciate their value and we are accepting as true without questioning that he or she will always be there. We tend to do this in most areas of our life including our relationships (romantic relationships, friendships and business relationships.)

“Teens’ Sexting Confuses Boys About Girls”
Teens are sexting and learning about sex and relationships by watching porn.
While girls are becoming objectified and sexualized, the trend is damaging to boys and future relationships. Watch the video 

Now, let’s talk about the need to connect, and the 3 critical ways that we respond when someone bids to connect emotionally with us.

If you have read my Success Newsletters over the past 11 years, then you know that there are 6 key emotional needs, and the number one need is “Love and connection”: we are constantly bidding to emotionally connect with people.

Psychologist Dr. John Gottman has authored more than 190 academic publications and 40 books. He is the co-founder of the Gottman Institute, where he studies marital relationships. In his book, “The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships”, Dr. Gottman indirectly argues that every interaction is an attempt to make an emotional connection with another human being. He refers to this action as “bids” or bidding, and it applies to all of our relationships – romantic, work, and familial.

Bidding is our attempt to make an emotional connection; it is our request for emotional connection; it is our gesture and appeal to receive attention, affection or acceptance from and create a bond with another person.

Bidding comes in many forms

  • Can be easy to see and interpret
  • Difficult to understand
  • Verbal or nonverbal
  • Physical or intellectual
  • Sexual or non-sexual
  • High or low-energy
  • Funny or serious
  • The content can involve thoughts, feelings, observations, opinions or invitations

Examples of non-verbal bidding

  • Affectionate touching
  • Facial expressions
  • Playful touching
  • Affiliating gestures (opening a door, offering a place to sit, handing over a utensil)
  • Vocalizing (laughing, grunting, groaning, sighing, etc.)

The 3 ways we respond to Bidding
Dr. Gottman has been studying, observing and analyzing couples since the 1970s and he and his team determined that the way couples respond to each other’s bids for attention and connection determine the happiness and success of their relationship.

1.Turning Toward: React in a positive way to a person’s bids for emotional connection. This is equivalent to validating someone and obviously, is the most effective way of building and strengthening any relationship. Gottman studied newlywed couples and 6 years later found that couples that were still married had turned towards one another 86% of the time while couples that had divorced averaged only 33% of the time.

Examples of turning toward
Two coworkers are talking, and one makes a funny comment and the other laughs.

A wife discusses her desire to take a vacation, and her husband agrees and says they should start working on a plan

2. Turning Against: A person behaves in a hateful or argumentative manner such as sarcasm and ridicule. This is equivalent to invalidating someone and leads to disintegration of a relationship.

Example of turning against
A wife asks her husband to turn off the TV so they can talk about their happenings that day, and he sighed and said, “What is there to talk about?”

3. Turning Away: Ignoring another person’s bid for emotional connection, or acting preoccupied. This is equivalent to not validating someone (by ignoring them) and this response is more destructive than “Turning against”; it leads quickly to divorce (one spouse, usually the wife is having her bids/requests for emotional connection denied and ignored.)

Example of turning away
A friend might say, “Look at that sports car, I would love to sport a ride like that!” The other friend would not even bother to look up or respond to the remark, or he might respond with something completely unrelated, such as, “What time is it?

Do you know what he or she really wants when he/she bids to connect emotionally?

Text                                                              Subtext
How do I look?                                          Can I have your attention?
Let’s put the kids to bed.                                Can I have your help?
I talked to my sister today.                         Will you chat with me?
Did I tell you the one about…?                   Will you enjoy with me?
Want to cuddle?                                        Can I have your affection?
Want to play Cribbage?                                  Will you play with me?
I had a terrible lunch meeting today.          Will you help me de-stress?

6 Bid Busters and how to avoid them

1. Being mindless instead of being mindful
Being mindful is noticing other individual’s bids and responding to them; being in the moment with someone, being present in the relationship


  • Set goals in your relationships to learn about the other person’s emotional needs
  • Consciously look for opportunities to connect emotionally with others

2. Starting on a sour note
This “harsh startup” is a bid that begins with a negative, blaming, or critical introduction.


  • Start your bids on a softer note
  • Begin with something positive
  • Express appreciation and gratitude
  • Start with “I” instead of “You”
  • Don’t stockpile complaints
  • Try to address issues one at a time, or as they happen
  • Revisit the episode later with that person

3. Using harmful words instead of helpful complaints
Issue complaints when necessary, but not criticism
Complaints address a specific problem; criticism tends to be judgmental and personal


  • State your needs; do not attack or blame the other person
  • Describe your complaint as your perception, not as an absolute truth
  • Focus on a specific behavior you would like to see changed, not on global judgments

4. Flooding
What is flooding?

When interacting with a person with whom you already have a strained relationship, additional conflict discussions may trigger intense emotions. The person becomes so stressed they become physically and emotionally overwhelmed.

Tips to handle flooding:

  • Take a time-out from the conversation for at least 20 minutes and self-soothe (Take a walk, meditate, progressive muscle relaxation, read, etc.)
  • Do not think about the conflict during the 20 minute relaxation time
  • After 20 minutes have expired, return to the conflict situation or schedule another time to discuss
  • Exercise: Give the other person just one word to help them better understand your needs in the conflict situation

5. Practicing a crabby habit of mind
Beware of being fixated on making situations perfect, pointing out the faults of others or turning against bids.


  • Look around and find things and people in your environment that you appreciate instead of having a critical attitude
  • Search for reasons to say “Thank You”
  • Make praise and thanksgiving a habit
  • Keep a daily Journal of Thanksgiving, and attempt to write down several things, people or talents that you are thankful for each day

6. Avoiding needed conversations
Many times arguments occur and resentments build due to a lack of communication and suppressed or repressed topics and emotions.


  • If you are surrounded by conflict in a relationship, take a look at issues that are not being discussed
  • Become aware of the 3 ways we respond to potential conflict: 1. Attack & defend 2. Avoid or deny 3. Self-disclose and connect
  • Speak how you feel; choose self-disclosure and connection

Finally, it is critical to understand that we all seek and need emotional connection, beginning from birth; children constantly make bids for emotional connection. Open your eyes and mind and notice how we are all bidding to make an emotional connection with the people around us. Make bids toward the others you want in your life in positive ways – turn towards people!

If you need assistance to improve your relationship or learn how to respond positively to bids for emotional connection – book a one-on-one session with me. 

You can add to the conversation below.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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