This is an excerpt from the excellent book Emotional Agility by Susan David, PhD.

She talks about a research project where married couples were studied in their “natural habitat” to understand communication better. Susan lists out the “bids for emotional attention” the study used.

I found this fascinating for an entirely different reason. As someone on the spectrum, I need to decode these kinds of non-obvious-to-me conversational bids constantly. Somewhere in my brain is a table much like this, gradually pieced together through years of painstaking effort. And here it is, all nicely laid out.

A simple bid for a partner’s attention: “There’s a pretty boat.”

A bid for a partner’s interest: “Didn’t your dad sail a boat like that?”

A bid for enthusiastic engagement: “Hey, with a boat like that, we could sail around the world.”

A bid for extended conversation: “Have you called your brother lately? Did he ever get his boat fixed?”

A bid for play: Rolling up a newspaper and bopping a partner lightly on the head, saying, “There. I’ve been meaning to do that all day.”

A bid for humor: “A rabbi, a priest, and a psychiatrist go out sailing…”

A bid for affection: “I need a hug.” or something similar, often nonverbal.

A bid for emotional support: “I still can’t understand why I didn’t get that promotion.”

A bid for self-disclosure: “What was it like when you sailed with your grandfather growing up?”

There you have it. Go get Susan’s book for many more insights.