“Bids for Connection” are actions we take to make ourselves accessible and express care, as defined by Dr. John Gottman, a specialist focused on research-based approaches to healthy relationships. These bids for connection also look like an any attempt by one person to gain attention or affirmation from another. He discusses capitalizing on these bids to make, and maximize, connection in adult relationships through small actions like asking someone for help, calling to chat, sharing the events of the day, or inviting someone to join an adventure.
We, as parents, educators, and other youth-serving professionals, make many of these same bids for connection in our attempts to affirm and attend to young people—and we also know that there are special considerations for connecting when we do so as trusted adults working in group spaces. The big questions for us are: How can we build trust and how can we build it fast? How do I offer bids for connection with a group such as a class, dorm, club, or sports team?
Over the past several months, we've been surrounded by hundreds of incredible trusted adults showing up to provide exciting and meaningful after-school experiences for youth!
During one of our in-person breakout sessions, we shared some of our favorite bids for connection when working with youth, and small groups brainstormed and then presented their favorites.
Here is a complete list of the ideas:
1. Ask for help. Whether you need it or not, ask young people to assist you with small and big tasks. This bid can promote connection through more time together, as well as more “doing” and less “talking.”
2. Invite everyone’s voice into the room within the first five minutes of meeting.
Research shows that people are far more likely to offer their voice and ideas
throughout a meeting if they have been given an opportunity to speak in the first few minutes of gathering.
3. Give greetings and say goodbye by name. Know and use members’ names as often as possible—this reminds them that they are known and that they belong.
4. Ask open-ended questions and play “this or that” games. One example of a “this or that” question asked of everyone in our meeting was: “If you were a type of candy, what kind of candy would you want to be?” This sparked great conversation and lots of learning about individuals’ personalities.
5. Check in with members throughout meetings. Check-ins offer great opportunities for connection—examples shared in our group were “weather reports,” “highs/lows,” and “roses and thorns.”
6. Get on their level and play. It’s critical to cultivate a more with and less for mentality when it comes to creating connection opportunities with youth.
7. Invite laughter and silliness. Look for and share in the small moments, especially the silly, unexpected, and fun ones.
8. Learn group members’ interests, and build and adapt the program to feed those interests. Showing enthusiasm for others’ interests can lead to valuable bonding time.
9. Apologize when you slip up. An apology is a bid for connection. When we make a mistake, own it, and apologize for it, not only are we modeling something we expect of young people, we are also creating an opportunity for more conversation and connection.
10. Smile!. A smile is worth a thousand words. Smiles say “I enjoy being in your
company”—and this is a feeling every young person should experience every day.
Much of our work with young people is intuitive; we assess what we think they need and react accordingly. We hope that this list of bids for connection leads us all to evaluate our habits and relational norms and look for opportunities to improve our practice. When we proactively focus on small things like smiles and greetings, we multiply our opportunities to support youth with the big things.
We would love to hear your ideas and reminders for creating strong connections in the spaces where you lead, parent, teach, mentor, and advise youth!