I was recently exposed to some research conducted by psychologist John Gottman, a nationally recognized expert on marriage and parenting. In marriage, he has identified conversational “bids” (or remarks) that move you “towards” your partner. The person on the receiving end can respond in a way that indicates one of the following:
- I’m interested in you.
- I hear you.
- I understand you (or would like to).
- I’m on your side.
- I’d like to help you (whether I can or not).
- I’d like to be with you (whether I can or not).
- I accept you (even if I don’t accept all your behavior).
Alternatively, they can ignore the remark, change the subject, or say something that comes across as passive aggressive. These types of responses are known as “turning away” bids.
According to Emily Esfahani Smith, The Atlantic, June 2, 2014 “These bidding interactions had profound effects on marital well-being. Couples who had divorced after a six-year follow up had “turn-toward bids” 33 percent of the time. Only three in ten of their bids for emotional connection were met with intimacy. The couples who were still together after six years had “turn-toward bids” 87 percent of the time. Nine times out of ten, they were meeting their partner’s emotional needs.”
The implications of this research, from an organizational perspective, seem pretty obvious to me! Every time a co-worker communicates something of importance to them, it may actually be a “towards bid” – a reaching out to be heard, understood, or supportive and accepting of you. How much effort does it really take to respond in kind? And don’t the potential benefits (e.g., trust) outweigh any potential negative outcomes, especially in times of conflict?