What is a secret to strong relationships? In his book “The Relationship Cure,” relational researcher, John Gottman, suggests that we should be on the lookout for “bids for connection” and turn toward these bids whenever we can. What is a bid for connection? A bid for connection is an invitation from another person to be a part of his/her life. It could come in the form of sharing a personal story, asking for help or telling a joke. It might be eye contact, a smile or a sigh. We make bids for connection all the time. When you make a bid for connection you are alert to how the other person responds to your bid. Responses come in three varieties. You can turn away from a bid for connection, turn against a bid for connection or turn toward a bid for connection. If you turn away, you verbally or non-verbally are dismissing the bid. Turning away from a bid says “I don’t have time for you. You are not important.” For example, while you are in the midst of preparing Sunday worship, your youth pastor pops in to tell you about a new idea for youth ministry. You offer non-committal one-syllable responses without taking your eyes from your laptop screen. Turning against a bid for connection says, “I don’t want to connect with you. Go away.” If you were to “turn against” your youth pastor, your response might be more like a brusque, “Can’t you see I am in the middle of something? Take care of it yourself.” We quickly detect when someone turns away or against our bid, and we rarely go back a second or third time if we can avoid it.

However, when we turn toward a bid for connection, we are saying “you matter to me and the things that are important to you are of interest to me.” Turning toward bids for connections builds relationships. In the example above, the busy senior pastor pauses typing, looks at the youth pastor, and say “I can see that you are really excited about your new idea and I want to give it the full attention it deserves without being distracted by my worship service preparation. Can we talk about it in about 30 minutes?” Dr. Gottman recommends that we turn toward bids for connection whenever we can.

God’s greatest bid for connection came in the form of Jesus Christ. The indwelling Holy Spirit is our ever-present reminder that God desires for us to return to Him whenever we turn away or against, God’s bid. Here are five ways you can respond to bids from others . . . and bids from God:

  1. Be mindful of bids for connection. Bids happen in small everyday ways. Who “bids” for connection with you?
  2. Turn toward bids for connection whenever you can. Turning toward a bid doesn’t mean that you spend the next hour with that person. It does mean that you recognize their presence in a way that says “you matter to me.”
  3. Know whose bid for connection you find most challenging to turn towards. Some people are more challenging than others. Whose bid are you most likely to turn away or turn against? Try to understand why you find turning toward their bid so difficult. How might the tone of your relationship change if you turned toward their bid for connection with compassion?
  4. Respond to bids for connection with a gentle voice. You have the right to set boundaries on your time and energy. However, do this with gentleness and care.
  5. Attend to when God makes a bid for connection. When are you most likely to turn toward, away, or even against God’s desire for connection with you?

To learn more about bids in relationships and more, see the following:

John Gottman. (2002). The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships. New York: Three Rivers Press.

John Gottman. (2013). What Makes Love Last: How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Daniel Goldman. Emotional Intelligence.

Jill Ann Hendron, Paul Irving, & Brian J. Taylor (2014). “The Emotionally Intelligent Ministry: Why it Matters.” Mental Health, Religion, & Culture, Vol 17, Issue 5, p. 470-478.

Oswald, Roy M. (2016) Emotional intelligence and congregational leadership.Reflective practice: Formation and supervision in ministry.

Guest relational contributor: Virginia Holeman, Ph.D. Co-Chair (Kentucky), Department of Counseling & Pastoral Care, Asbury Theological Seminary.

Executive editor: Russ Gunsalus  
Curator of content: Dave Higle