Companion Calls & Bids for Connection

The Northern Cardinal is a fascinating bird. If you live in the eastern half of the United States, and are lucky enough to have a bird feeder or spend significant time outdoors, you will most certainly have seen or heard the call of one of these beautiful birds. Like humans, cardinals are an animal that pair-bonds (Stokes, 1983). Male and female cardinals develop intimate relationships. In order to maintain these relationships, a pair of cardinals employ a type of bird song that is referred to as companion calling (Young, 2010). This is not the typical song that you might hear them sing on a sunny morning. Rather, it is the little “chip” sound that they make back and forth to each other all throughout the day. It is their pragmatic and communicative way of checking in with each other. Put simply, it is a bid for connection

Much like the cardinal, human beings make bids for connection. The texts or phone calls sent throughout the day between a human couple function in the same way as companion calls between songbirds. Because humans are a complex social species, we have many more types of relationships than just pair-bonded intimate relationships. All of these relationships require maintenance, and different forms of “checking” in with each other. This could be the hug that a child gets from a parent before school or the nod that a co-worker gives to acknowledge the hard work of another employee.

Perhaps no researcher has studied or written more on the subject of emotional bids that Dr. John Gottman. In his works, he describes the importance of both making and responding to emotional bids (Gottman,1994). When a person makes an attempt to connect to another person, the person receiving this bid has the choice to either turn toward or turn away from the bid. Turning toward these bids for connection builds relationships, while turning away can slowly break them down. Sometimes when we are upset, we may turn away from an emotional bid that we really should have turned toward. In the Mandt system, we recommend that in these situations we recognize and affirm our feelings, and then slow down a bit and choose our behaviors. In this case, often choosing to turn toward, rather than away.

Sometimes when we are scurrying through our hectic days, we may not recognize that an important person in our lives has made an attempt to connect with us. It is important for us to slow down enough to recognize that these bids are occuring, and turn toward them as often as we can. In the Mandt System, we say that you have to “check the message out”. Sometimes what seemed like a simple message was really an attempt at connection from the sender of the message. Like the northern cardinal, it’s best for us to heed the companion calls of the important people in our lives.

John Windsor – Mandt Faculty

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