2-Minute Relationship Assessment (Achievement Nudge)

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Last Updated on June 10, 2024 by Bill Truby

Want to tell how healthy your relationship is and predict whether it will last (or not)? This Nudge tells you how, and it takes less than two minutes to do so.

Achieve a Happier Relationship with One Simple Act

For more than forty years, psychologists John Gottman, Julie Gottman, and Robert Levenson studied thousands of married couples. As a part of their research, they set up a “Love Lab” at the University of Washington. The researchers studied the couples by observing their interactions. They also used biofeedback monitoring devices during interviews. Two interesting patterns emerged.

Later, they took 130 couples to a day-long retreat to more closely study the patterns. They had the couples engage in “normal” activities: cooking, cleaning, listening to music, eating, chatting, and just being together. Finally, they were able to clearly identify the two patterns and separated the couples into two major groups they called “Masters” and “Disasters.”

After six years of follow-up, they found that the “Masters” were still happy, but the “Disasters” either broke up or were in a chronically unhappy relationship. The difference between a “Master” and a “Disaster” relationship was revealed in a seemingly innocuous interaction that took less than two minutes. It was when one person made a “bid” for the other’s attention.

A “bid” is when a person tries to engage the other. A husband might say, “Look at that beautiful sunset.” A wife could say, “I heard from my mother today.” Both are “bids” for connection. The study revealed that the relationship indicator was in the second person’s response. The second person would engage in one of two ways, which revealed the health of the relationship, AND predicted whether it would last, or not.

The core difference in the two responses was to “turn toward” the first person or “turn away.” This was literally true (as in body language) or true in content (such as saying “that’s nice” while not engaging, but continuing to do whatever the person was doing). The researchers tested the viability of their hypothesis by following up on participants for over six years.

Couples who had divorced during the first six years did “turn-toward bids” only 33% of the time. Couples who were still together and happy after six years had “turn-towards bids” 87% of the time. Not only was this fascinating and revealing, it became a very accurate predictor of the relationship’s sustainability.

By observing these “turn-toward/away” interactions (that take less than two minutes) Gottman was able to predict with up to 94% accuracy whether couples would be broken up, together but not happy, or together and happy for years to come. Interestingly, the accuracy of this predictor applied to couples who were straight, gay, rich, poor, childless or not.

It turns out that couples reveal the health, happiness and sustainability of the ENTIRE relationship in a two-minute bid for connection. By extrapolation, I believe this applies to work relationships, too.

This Nudge is to analyze those two-minute “bids” in your relationships. If you don’t like what you see, don’t “turn away” from the need to “turn toward” the other person bidding for your connection.

As I write this, I’m reminded of my dad. One of the consistent, incessant lessons he drilled into me while growing up was, “Son, always acknowledge someone when they speak to you.” He said, “It’s just common sense.” Once again, his cowboy way was right. And he didn’t need any research to prove it.

Bill Truby

Founder and President of Truby Achievements