Bids for Connection: Learing from a relationship expert


What can we learn from relationship experts and apply to our collaborative efforts?

Creating a successful collaborative requires us to be competent at building relationships and trust. Some of the underlying principles about human relationships, and building trust, are best understood by experts in the field of human relations. One of those experts is John Gottman.

Based in Seattle, Washington, Gottman is world renowned for his work on marriage, family and work relationships. In his unique apartment laboratory setting at the University of Washington, for over 20 years, he has studied how people interact with one another under everyday circumstances.

He has discovered that bids for connection are the fundamental element of emotional connection. By choosing to turn toward, to turn away, or turn against each other’s bid for connection, no matter how ordinary or small, we establish a foundation that could determine the future success or failure of our relationship.  Trust trust doesn’t require gut-wrenching conversations that plumb the depths of our souls. Rather, good relationships usually develop slowly over time, growing out of the thousands of mundane interactions we share each day.  Pass the water, please, thank you.

Of course the payoff around trust comes when a crisis hits.

In this short video, Gottman talks about the magic relationship ratio, about the number of positive bids for connection versus negative bids required to sustain a marriage relationship. 5:1 he says; 5 positive to 1 negative.


While your collaborative context is different from a marriage, I think the the ideas, if not the ratio, behind positive bidding still apply. How much positive bidding goes on in your organization? Next time you’re at the table with your stakeholders, pay attention to the bidding – what’s the ratio of positive to negative bids? What will your next bid be?

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Photo credit: candycandisco

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