“Elly, Elly!” Layla jumps up and down when she sees me. Then she starts running around her mom in circles. Her older sister Lily tells me with a serious look on her face: “We had a good talk yesterday.”
I had never realized the importance of streamers on your bike, or training wheels or a bell, till Lily proudly showed them to me. I never knew how much I wished my bike was painted in pink and purple till I saw those colors on her bike. And I didn’t understand my own ignorance till I failed to explain how the pedals and the chain work together. I hope she didn’t notice. She gets on her bike and bikes as fast as she can. I think to impress me.
Layla is done running around her mom and back to jumping up and down. “Elly, Elly!” I jump up and down and shout “Elly, Elly!” with her. I feel embarrassed to shout out my name, but who cares if it brings a two-year-old so much delight?
The interaction won’t make the evening news. Not even our neighborhood chronicle. But it is a gem stored away in the treasure trove of my memories.
When we turn toward each other’s bids for connection, we strengthen our closeness.
According to John Gottman, my favorite relationship expert, these bids don’t have to be of major importance, like: “When can we talk about my performance as a Director?” or “How are we going to support the employees we have to lay off?” It can be as small as showing your bike or asking someone to pass the salt.
Whatever the content is, the intent is the same: someone wants to connect with you. When you respond either with a “yes” to the specific content or offer something even better, you express that you appreciate the sender’s outreach.
According to Gottman, this is also true for angry bids for connection. Bids that might contain blaming, shaming, criticizing, judging, evaluating. It certainly is harder to see the intention to connect in them, but somewhere under those ‘tragic expressions of unmet needs’ there is someone trying to get attention for their suffering.
The next time you get an angry bid for connection, see if you can separate the bid from the method of bidding. It helps to breathe into your own trigger, check if you have the resources to empathize or need a time-out, and then listen with a curiosity to understand the precious, beautiful, human, universal needs behind the communication.
As a result, you will feel more compassion and have a greater willingness to figure out how to meet all needs.
If you want to learn to train your mind to accept angry bids for emotional connection, you might enjoy my free webinar this Wednesday, June 24, 8:00 am:
In “Puppy training for your mind” we will:
- Share the different ways we can train our minds to be present with our body, especially when we feel overwhelmed with anxiety, worry, anger
- Increase trust that no matter our circumstances or conditions, we can always find a place of peace within ourselves, even if only for a few seconds
- Discuss the benefits of mindfulness, even if you are not a Buddhist and have no intention to ever go to a Sangha
- Design the simplest tool to nurture your mindfulness every day, no matter what you are thinking, feeling, or doing
- Figure out how sitting on a cushion and focusing on yourself can contribute to a society with fairness, safety, appreciation, and support for all
Join me next Wednesday, June 24 at 8:00 am CST at a free Zoom-call about mindfulness, empathy, and community.