How to Instantly Connect. The Basics of Emotional Bidding.

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.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?

Being in the Moment. What my Dog Taught me About Presence.

If you listen to the book, The Obstacle Is the Way, on Audible there is an interview between the author, Ryan Holiday and Tim Ferriss, author of 4-hour Workweek at the end of the recording. It is a fascinating interview and at one point Tim asks Ryan what he is grateful for. Ryan responds, his dog because he helps keep him present. I immediately connected. My dog, Baci, is the most joyful, present being I know and I absolutely learn from her every day. What My Dog Taught Me About Presence.

Baci is a 6 year old Brittany who we have owned since she was 2 months old. Outside of being a pain to get house broken (I think it took almost 2 years), she is the best dog I have ever owned. I think she’s had an influence on our entire family, as she shares her joy and love unabashedly. So if one dog can change the culture of a house, imagine what you could do if you could adopt some her greatest attributes.

Here is what she has taught me:

1. Smile. Many dogs like Spaniels and Retrievers have a smiling face. The smile is infectious. You cannot look at a smiling dog and not smile back. So do you want to be infectious? Do you want your coworkers or your friends to be drawn to you? Think about smiling more often. Show up to the meeting with a smile. To the party. To the conference call. People will “hear” the smile. Curl up the ends of your mouth and let those pearly whites shine. Smile.

2. Eye contact. When Baci wants something (usually the door being opened so she can go run after a squirrel), she walks right over and makes eye contact. She gets my attention by staring deeply into my eyes. Imagine going into a meeting and the only way you could communicate is through your eyes. They cannot be ignored. I can see how this might be taken too far as staring down your boss in a meeting might be counterproductive but making eye contact is so important in getting someone to take notice. Be sure to make eye contact.

3. Touch. Reach out and touch. This may seem too familiar in the business setting and I grant you that women have more latitude than men when it comes to touching. There are many women that I hug when they come for an annual strategy meeting but not the men. It’s tricky and for all I know, it’s a Southern thing. But when Baci wants to be scratched, she reaches out and taps my hand or nuzzles me on my arm. Connecting with someone by just tapping them on the shoulder or the back of their elbow or shaking their hand can greatly enhance the outcome. You are more connected to someone when you touch them.

4. Roll. Baci rolls with the punches. She’s not pouting in the corner because I forgot to feed her yesterday or stomping off in a huff because she failed to nab that pesky squirrel before it reached the maple tree. There is another squirrel where that one came from. Dogs don’t end up with ulcers or depression or stress related illnesses. She isn’t ruminating about all the missed opportunities from yesterday or worried about whether or not it will rain this Saturday. She takes it all as it comes. Let it roll.

5. Chill out. Baci can chill out and take a nap ANYWHERE. When we get back from our morning walk, she takes a few sips of water and then heads to her favorite chair to chill out. She takes care of herself. She’s just exerted a lot of energy dragging me around the neighborhood and she sits back and relaxes. Don’t we all need to do that? Instead of focusing on the next task or project. Take 15 minutes and recoup. It helps your demeanor. Take a minute or five to chill out.

6. Love. I don’t know about your dog but my dog loves everyone. I’ll lick your face if you like, let me cuddle with you, I’m your BFF unconditional kind of love. She doesn’t care how old you are, what language you speak or what gender you are. If you are in front of her, she loves you. No questions asked. Imagine having that kind of love for everyone when you head to your next board meeting or widget manufacturing conference or high school reunion. Unconditional love is really freeing. It leaves you open with no attachments. Embody the Baci love (except maybe not licking anyone’s face).

7. Live. Baci inhales life. If it’s running through a pile of leaves, chasing the elusive squirrel, keeping the geese at bay or fetching a tennis ball, she is all in. She doesn’t hold back. If this is the task at hand, she will bring her whole self. I’ve never thrown a tennis ball and have her meander over halfheartedly to pick up the ball. So bring it. To your next project, washing the dishes or writing a blog post. Be all in.

As I write this, my dog is sprawled on the floor next to me. Never self-conscious. Never worried about the judgments of others. It’s so inspiring. Just be.