This week, we’re talking about connection!
How connected we’re feeling to the people in our lives is a helpful barometer of our relationships. Feeling disconnected can be a sign that it’s time to more intentionally cultivate connecting moments.
Anna shares one of the questions that guides her decision-making: ‘Is what I’m about to do going to enhance or harm my connection with this person?’ We also explore the idea of bids for connection, which can be an enlightening lens through which to view our interactions.
We hope today’s episode sparks some fun insights for you and we invite you to dive deeper with our Episode Questions. And join us on Instagram or YouTube to continue the conversation and share your reflections.
Let’s dig deep, challenge paradigms, choose connection, and live joyfully!
- What does connection with another person feel like for you?
- What are some ways you might connect with the people in your family? What do they love to do? What do you love to do? How might those overlap?
- How do you typically react when an attempt to connect with someone goes unexpectedly?
- Would that change if you framed it as learning something new about them?
- What bids for connection do you notice and are you responding in the way you’d like to?
PAM: Hello and welcome to the Living Joyfully Podcast. We are excited you found us, and are interested in exploring our relationships and who we are in them, out of them, and what that means for how we choose to move through the world. And in today’s episode, we are going to talk about connection.
So, connecting with another person on an emotional level creates a feeling of being in alignment with them, of understanding and appreciating each other in that moment. Regularly cultivating connection with someone builds a stronger and stronger relationship with them. You get to know and understand each other better. You come to anticipate their needs and they, yours.
So, for me, how connected I’m feeling to another person is kind of a barometer of our relationship. If I’m feeling disconnected, I more purposefully seek out connecting moments with them. A connecting moment might be sharing an activity together, from watching a movie, going for a walk, playing a game, whatever feels good together.
But the really important piece for it to be connecting is that the other person needs to enjoy it. This was something that I had to learn along the way. It’s not particularly connecting for me to cajole my partner into going for a walk with me if they don’t enjoy walks. They will likely spend a good chunk of that time looking forward to it being over, rather than enjoying each other’s company. They will just have that in the back of their mind. “Have we walked long enough? Have we walked far enough? When’s it time to turn back?”
So, if I want to connect with someone, whether it be a partner, child, friend, it is helpful to suggest an activity that they enjoy. They will also feel seen and heard by that. “Oh, they know how much I love to go for a walk. Yay!” Or, “to play that game, yay!” etc. That will help them feel seen as the person they are by me, because connecting with another person really is about seeing and celebrating them for who they are, not who I wish they were. That is a subtle but very important difference.
And in that space of enjoying an activity together, often we can both chat more freely and openly, learning more about what’s up in each other’s days, sharing what we’ve been enjoying, and what challenges we may be feeling. That is connecting with them. It doesn’t need to be anything big, doesn’t need to be anything special, but doing things together that we enjoy opens up that space for connecting and conversations and sharing little pieces of ourselves with each other.
So, what does connection look like for you, Anna?
ANNA: You know I’m excited to talk about connection! I keep connection as a lens for just about everything. I often ask myself, is what I’m about to say or do, going to enhance or harm my connection with this person? And if I’m honest about that and act from a place of choosing connection, conflicts are avoided. The lines of communication remain open. Because here’s the thing. So, I’m choosing to be in relationship with this person. I love them. I want us to enjoy our time together, so I want to take ownership of who I am. I want to act from a place of being the person that I want to be. And for me, that person is kind and compassionate and extends unconditional regard to my loved ones.
Do I fall short of that sometimes? Yes. Yes, I do.
But if I keep connection as the lens, if I check in about my actions before acting, I can choose to be that person more and more. And it becomes easier and easier.
The other thing about being connected that I want to talk about is that we’re on the same team. I talk to a lot of couples who are approaching disagreements or meeting their needs as basically this zero-sum game. When, instead, we keep our connection at the forefront, we’re able to approach problems and meeting each other’s needs as a puzzle that we’re solving together. We’re on the same side.
We can give each other that generous assumption, which is basically we love each other. We’re in this together. We want to help each other feel seen and heard. We want each of our needs to be met. Coming from that place leaves a world of possibilities that we cannot see when we’re tunneling in and defending our own needs without regard for the other in this oppositional, volleying back and forth, defend and receive.
PAM: Exactly. Feeling connected with another person really does feel like we’re on the same team. I love that. We are in alignment. We want to help each other get our needs met and work toward accomplishing our goals.
For me, that feeling of being on the same team makes all the difference in our interactions, in our connection. Conflicts, or even just conversations, aren’t that back and forth of offense and defense and winner and loser and how many times have they won and how many times have I lost, etc. It is just a team effort in creatively trying to meet everyone’s needs and wishes and help each other along. That just feels so much better, too.
ANNA: So much better.
PAM: One thing I also wanted to mention is that sometimes our attempts at connection may not land with the other person. They may even go sideways, like, what the heck? That is totally okay. Like really, that’s okay. It is not a failure. We don’t need to take that personally, as an attack on us. Again, like offense/defense.
In fact, same team, when you bring that lens, we can often use that to learn a bit more about them. Oh, what was it about that thing? Was it the activity that they weren’t interested in? Were they busy with somebody or something that’s important to them? Maybe they’re stressed about something that’s going on in their life, like a work issue. Something else has their focus. So, it doesn’t need to be a rejection of us. It’s like, oh, there’s other things going on in our life. And we can really be so quick to take everything personally. I definitely know that I can, but when I can take that moment to remember, no, it doesn’t need to be about me, per se. What else is going on? It is so interesting and so often, that’s really the case. They’re not trying to piss us off or trying to make us feel bad.
None of that.
ANNA: It’s not about us at all usually.
PAM: Exactly. Or in that moment, maybe we can learn a bit about ourselves or maybe both. Right? Maybe we put out-sized expectations on the other person. Maybe we didn’t end up enjoying the activity and we’re the one who’s distracted instead of engaged in the moment. Maybe we were tired, like we just felt like we needed to do this thing and we pushed ourselves to try and connect with them, but in the end, it didn’t turn out very well for us. Life happens. We learn from that experience and we try again.
We are always learning. There is just so much about each other. When we’re talking about relationships, there’s so much to learn, because we are different in each moment. When we’re tired, we’re different in that moment. The things that we can do are different, the conversations that we can have, but being more open and honest about those moments, it is so helpful for relationships.
And it also helps to be open to noticing when your partner or your child is trying to connect with you and try to be responsive in those moments.
If we are stuck in our heads, it can feel like we’re the only one prioritizing the relationship. We feel like we’re the only ones inviting and inviting. But if we can notice, so often, we may not realize what it is at first, but when they invite us to join them, chances are they are looking to connect with us. And it may look very different than how we might want to connect with them, but a connection is just as valuable either way.
And, in fact, it enhances relationship when the connections go both ways. There’s a term that we toss around, we learned about last year or so, was it? Bids for connection. You want to talk about that a little bit more?
ANNA: Yeah, I definitely want to touch on bids for connection. I think the idea comes from the Gottman Institute. The funny thing about them is they don’t always look straight forward like, “Hey, I want to feel closer to you now.” Sometimes it looks like picking a fight or a grumpy comment. Sometimes it looks like asking for something that we can do ourselves. “Hey, can you get me water, even though you have to walk in front of me to go get the water that I’m asking for?” Sometimes it looks like pulling away or getting quiet. And as we learn more about each other, we see the bids for what they are and the underlying need that they’re trying to meet. And then we can check in and respond with kindness and that can open up the lines of communication and avoid a situation where people don’t feel heard.
Love languages can also play a role here. Knowing how we give and receive love can help make sure that what we’re putting out is love is being received as such.
But with the bids, like you said, it’s so interesting, because we’ll be in our heads about, I want to make this relationship better, and maybe that person’s telling us a story from work and we’re actually still in our head thinking, “We’re not doing relationship things,” or we’re not doing the thing the way it looks in our head.
But really, wanting to share that bit from work or the child wanting to share the bit about their game, that is the bid for connection. That is them wanting to bring us into their world. And so, for me, I just want to keep really open to that. I just want to be open, so that I’m seeing that in the people that are around me that I love, and that I’m acknowledging that and I’m responding.
And yes, like you said earlier, sometimes we have capacity issues to deal with. Sometimes there just isn’t enough, or the time is not right, or we’re tired. But I find even in those situations, when I see the bid, I’m able to acknowledge the bid. Even if I can’t dive in fully to maybe what they’re needing for the, in that moment, it’s so much better than brushing it off.
PAM: Yes, when you can acknowledge it and be a bit transparent by saying, “Ah, that’s wonderful. I love that. I can’t wait to join you, or I can’t wait to hear that story. I’m just really tired right now. Can we do it in the morning? Can we do it after I’ve had a nap? Or I’m just going to sit here and have a tea or a coffee for a few minutes,” to acknowledge so that they feel seen and heard in that moment.
And there was one other thing that came up. So, as we’ve been talking this whole time about connection, and you touched on this and I think it’s super important, is the idea that we can have these visions in our head of what being in relationship means. And it can mean all sorts of fancy things in our head. We can have these visions of, we need to go out on a date every week, right? We need to go outside of the house, all these pieces. And the everyday connection doesn’t count. But, truly, in the everyday connection, that is the foundation. Those are the connections that we’re building.
It doesn’t mean we don’t do the bigger things. It just means the relationship isn’t on hold between the bigger things.
ANNA: Exactly. And this is what we were talking about that I said in the first episode that we’re going to keep repeating, it’s that outside voice, because I think we come into it maybe from movies, whatever, that we had this idea of what relationships look like, but it really is the everyday of just sharing the ups and downs and getting the things done around the house and just moving through our days together that builds that foundation, that then we can do all these other fun things and big things. Because the reality is, the big fun things are going to be sprinkled throughout our year. But if that’s what we’re pinning our hopes on, that’s not going to get us through. So, we have to figure out how to keep that connection alive and rich and wonderful in those everyday moments. And it is listening for those bids. It is being available.
PAM: Yes. And just think for a moment, when you have that connection going throughout your days, your every days, you’re already pretty well connected when those bigger moments come. And how much more fun are those when you’re already connected, instead of thinking-
ANNA: We’re going to get it there!
PAM: We have to go and relearn each other for our weekend away. Let’s reconnect, finally.
ANNA: Right. And isn’t that why some of those things go awry? Sometimes, we have this idea like, we’re going to have this amazing date, or we’re going to take this amazing trip and then it ends up falling flat. But I think so much of that is because maybe we haven’t been tending to those pieces in between, and so, we’re pinning our hopes on this big time away or this big thing, and it falls a little bit short.
So, yeah, I think that’s super interesting to watch for and think about.
PAM: Yes. Yes. Okay. So, I have some questions to share for people to ponder as they’re exploring connections, alongside all the ones we’ve already talked about.
So, what does connection with another person feel like for you?
What are some ways you might connect with the people in your family? What do they love to do? What do you love to do? What do you love to do together? How can these different things overlap? It doesn’t always need to be one thing. Sitting on the couch together or playing a game together, those are all perfectly wonderful ways to connect.
How do you typically react when an attempt to connect, a bid for connection that we’re putting out, goes unexpectedly? So, when you offer up, “Oh, let’s sit down and have a coffee together, or a tea together,” and they say no, how do you typically react? How does that feel? Would that change if you framed it as a learning something new about them? “Oh, I didn’t know they were really into the thing they were doing. Oh, I didn’t know that thing went strange at work today, and you’re really worried about that,” because those things going awry are actually opportunities to learn more.
And then, again, let’s think about the bits for connection coming the other way. Just keep an eye open for that over the next little while. I love what you said that the bids don’t always look perfect. As in, “Let’s do this together!” It can be, “Oh, my gosh, I had such a rough day at work. I want to vent about it.” That is a bid for connection. That is some support another person is looking for. And we can learn more about their lives. It can be a child really frustrated about something that went wrong and what they’re trying to do, and they come to you. That’s a bid for connection, for some support in what they are looking to do. Maybe it’s the infamous, “I’m bored,” you know? They’re just looking to chat with somebody for a while.
There are so many possibilities when you just open up and start looking for what might potentially be bids for connections, opportunities for connection.
PAM: Thank you so much for listening and we’ll see you next time. Bye.