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  • Writer's pictureGeorgina Sturmer

What can we learn from 'The Bird Test'?

Social media has led to an explosion in theories and new terminology to capture the essence of human behaviour. In previous posts, I've explored the 'Orange Peel Theory' and the 'Let Them Theory'. This time, I'm turning my attention to 'The Bird Test'. I've commented for HuffPost about this theory. Click here to read the original article, and read on to hear what I had to say.

Here's the idea behind 'The Bird Test'. It describes a scenario where one person points out something fairly mundane, such as a bird that they can see outside the window. The 'test' element is based on the idea that the other person's response will demonstrate how connected they are, and how much attention they are paying to what we have to say.

What's interesting about the 'Bird Test' is that it highlights the importance of everyday interactions. The importance of being attentive and appreciative of each other's insights and opinions. In our busy everyday lives we are so used to making plans and debriefing each other on our days and organising things that sometimes we forget how to just 'be' with each other. To show the other person that we want to be in a relationship with them because we are interested in the connection that we have together. This is all the more relevant given the hectic, fast pace of our lives, and the constant distraction of messages and alerts and notifications. It reminds us that relationships require us to make an effort. To avoid falling into complacency, to proactively attempt to connect with each other, and to acknowledge the other person's efforts at connection too.

The 'Bird Test' links with the idea of 'bids', a concept originating from a study by John Gottman, a relationship scientist. Gottman's study looked at the ways in which we reach out to connect with our partners, whether it's verbal or non verbal, whether it's a grand gesture or a small act. At one end of the spectrum, a 'bid' could involve us loudly declaring our love for the other person. At the other end of the spectrum, it could involve us reaching over and tucking a strand of hair behind their ear. What's significant, is how much we offer 'bids' and attempt to connect with each other, and how we receive and acknowledge each other's 'bids'. Gottman suggested that in a successful relationship, we will offer 'bids' often, and we will receive them with appreciation.

So, does the 'Bird Test' indicate whether or not our relationship will be a success? It isn't necessarily a black and white measure of whether a relationship is doomed to fail. But it does show us how much we are paying attention to each other. And it reminds us to ask ourselves this questions - if we are not truly paying attention to each other, and trying to stay connected, then does this feel like a relationship that will endure? If not, are we prepared to put in the work to make it happen? If you're thinking about 'testing' your relationship in this way, I would also reflect on whether you notice your own partner's 'bids', and whether you acknowledge them in a positive way. Sometimes it's helpful to role model the behaviour that we want to see in others, before we start testing them and potentially calling them out on it.

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What can we learn from 'The Bird Test'?

'Bids' and Anna R article in Huffpost

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