Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Problem of Fuzzy Bidding


Welcome back to the Gottman Relationship Blog! From all of us at the Gottman Institute, we hope that you enjoyed your Labor Day weekend to the fullest and were able to enjoy some well-deserved time off! We have been overwhelmed by all of the positive feedback following the release of What Makes Love Last? yesterday and would like to take this opportunity to thank you. 

In the next couple weeks on The Gottman Relationship blog, we will be exploring Dr. Gottman’s discoveries about bidding. In writing about his studies about the mechanics of bidding and primary causes for bid-rejection, Dr. Gottman hits upon the very important phenomenon of “fuzzy bidding.” What is “fuzzy bidding” and why is it so important? It goes a little something like this:

Lucy: We should get coffee sometime.
George: That’s a great idea, but you know, I’m absolutely swamped these days.
Lucy: I totally understand, give me a call?

George: Great, I’ll do that.

Though the exchange seems casual, Dr. Gottman’s research shows him that the situation between Lucy and George is deeply problematic. It is more likely that Lucy’s bid is being (and will continue to be) rejected. Dr. Gottman explains that in such a case, Lucy can’t tell how George actually feels about her bid. Is George really that busy, or is he just saying it to avoid getting coffee with her? Will George ask her to get coffee when he is less busy or decides to go on some kind of pity date? Her fuzzy bidding in such situations leads her to become completely overcome with misgivings, filled with paranoia and may even, in the natural course of such things, make her so paralyzed by doubt that she can’t function in her daily life. This seems to be a common theme among many of us. Our lives are being taken over by fuzzy bidding! It may come as a relief to hear Dr. Gottman’s advice for avoiding such disaster.

Here’s the way an accepted, successful bid would look according to Dr. Gottman:

Lucy: We should get coffee sometime.
George: That’s a great idea, but you know, I’m absolutely swamped these days.
Lucy: I totally understand. Do you know when you’ll be free?
George: Let me see – Next Friday the project will be due, and the deadline should free me up!
Lucy: Saturday morning?
George: Perfect, see you then!

The difference is that in the second conversation, Lucy and George don’t dance around the issue! We know that open bidding - the kind where we feel vulnerable - has the potential to hurt us. We learn this as children. It seems safer to send out what Dr. Gottman calls “trial balloons.“ When a child says, “Annie’s mom fixes Annie’s hair in French braids every morning!” what she may really be trying to say to her harried mother is, “I wish you’d pay more attention to me in the mornings.”

Practice avoiding fuzzy bids in your own life by increasing the clarity of your intent in bidding situations. Chances are, your successes will bring you the confidence you need to continue getting into this habit, making your connections with others much stronger! We wish you luck, and to remember – as with most of Dr. Gottman’s skills, practice makes perfect. Look forward to more about bidding on Friday!

All for now,
Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff

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