The ‘bird test’ is a new relationship trend circling TikTok. Originally shared by user Alyssa Caribardi, the bird test suggests that how your partner responds when you point out something seemingly insignificant, like a bird, can determine the strength of your relationship and whether it will last.
In a viral video by Caribardi, she explains, “If you’re with someone, romantic or not, if you say something that could be deemed insignificant and your partner responds with genuine curiosity – that’s a really good sign that your relationship will last a long time.”
She gives an example of when she was getting coffee with a new friend when she noticed a woodpecker outside and pointed it out with enthusiasm. Her friend responded eagerly, and then they spent around 10 minutes watching the woodpecker and looking up facts about this type of bird online together.
Caribardi claims that she now has a strong relationship with this new friend, suggesting that the bird test proves the longevity of the friendship.
Since this video was posted, many TikTok users have shared videos where they have carried out their own experiments into whether their friends or romantic partners can pass the bird test. For example, a girlfriend will exclaim, ‘Come look at this bird!’ to her boyfriend to see whether he will look or not.
Is there actual proof behind the ‘bird test’?
The bird test is actually based on established relationship research. What Caribardi describes aligns with what psychologist John Gottman calls ‘bids for emotional connection.’
According to Gottman, bids are attempts people make to connect with others. This could involve sharing a thought, making a gesture, asking a question, or expressing affection.
The idea is that couples who consistently turn toward each other’s bids and respond positively have more fulfilling relationships.
The bird test has captured attention online because it raises awareness of Gottman’s research in a simple, fun to understand analogy.
Behind this trend lies insights into human relationships and how the quality of our emotional connections depends on how much we invest in the little, intimate moments.
What are bids for emotional connection?
Bids are attempts people make to connect with others emotionally, according to Dr John Gottman.
Through observing thousands of couples interact, Gottman found that newlyweds who were still together after six years turned toward each other’s bids around 86% of the time.
Whereas newlyweds who had divorced in the six years after their wedding turned toward each other’s bids only 33% of the time (Gottman & Gottman, 2017).
Gottman concludes that the happiest couples consistently turn toward each other’s bids positively, whereas unhappy couples frequently ignore or reject each other’s bids.
In the case of the bird test, imagine you are looking out of your window into the garden and see an interesting bird on the lawn. You say to your partner, ‘Wow, that’s a beautiful bird!’ how they respond indicates whether they turn away, against, or toward your bid. If your partner does not respond to you at all, Gottman suggests this is a partner ‘turning away’ from your bid. If your partner responds with, ‘Be quiet, I’m busy over here,’ this is an example of ‘turning against’ your bid. If your partner responds by coming over to the garden window with you and says something like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s a nice bird. I saw a similar one last week.’ then this is your partner ‘turning toward’ your bid.
Examples of bids
Bids can be verbal as well as nonverbal, such as winking to communicate that you are feeling playful or sighing after reading a message on your phone to indicate that you want your partner to ask what is wrong.
Logan Ury, dating coach at the Gottman Institute, claims that the aim of bids is to communicate, ‘I want to emotionally connect with you – please turn toward me.’ But, they are purposefully subtle because directly pleading for connection feels risky and vulnerable.
Below are some examples of bids for emotional connection and what they could be communicating:
- “What have you been up to today?” – Share the events of your day with me.
- “Do you like the food I cooked?” – Show interest or appreciation in my skills.
- “I feel so tired” – Help me feel less stressed.
- “The dog wants to go for a walk, but I don’t have time” – Help me problem-solve.
- “Let’s cuddle” – Be affectionate with me.
- “Let’s choose a board game.” – I want to spend quality time with you.
- “Look at this.” – Pay attention to me.
- “Do you want to walk in the park with me?” – Join me in an adventure.
- “What do you think I should do?” – I value your perspective and want your input.
Why are bids important?
Bids for connection are thought to be vital in relationships because consistently responding to them builds trust, fondness, and intimacy over time (Gottman & Gottman, 2017).
Ellie Lisitsa from the Gottman Institute explains that frequently accepting bids creates positive momentum and emotional ‘deposits’ in the couple’s ‘Emotional Bank Account.’
These accrued deposits cushion relationships during hard times. If you are having doubts about the relationship, investments in the emotional bank account can help reduce the possibility of fights occurring.
Turning away from bids, such as ignoring someone completely, can feel very upsetting to the other person. They may even be more upsetting than turning against bids, according to Zach Brittle at The Gottman Institute.
Rejecting a bid still gives the opportunity to engage or repair, but missing the bid could result in fewer bids being made or making bids elsewhere.
“If your spouse tries to bring up conversation, not even necessarily something positive… it can be very hurtful if you don’t respond. It’s like you threw the ball to them, and they just dropped it.”Dr Angelica Shie, Clinical Psychologist.
Turning towards subtle, everyday bids, such as looking at a bird that your partner points out, can help prevent your partner from feeling neglected and disconnected from you.
Relationships with anyone may not necessarily end due to major blowups, but a thousand small dismisses and turn aways that leave someone feeling emotionally impoverished.
That’s why noticing and meeting someone’s bids for emotional connection, no matter how small, is essential for healthy bonds.
When you turn towards bids, you are communicating to the bidder, ‘I hear you,’ ‘I would like to understand you,’ ‘I want to be with you,’ and ‘I accept you.’
Couple’s therapist, Colette Jane Fehr, explains that, as humans, it’s normal to make the mistake of missing bids sometimes but expresses why it is important.
She uses an example of times when she has been so engrossed in a TV show that she becomes annoyed at her husband trying to talk to her through it:
“That is him making a reach for me… and even though I don’t mean it this way, anytime I don’t respond back saying ‘What, honey? Tell me more,’ I’m sending a message that you are not important to me. And that erodes at a relationship over time.”
How to respond to a bid
Below are some tips for skilfully responding to bids for connection:
- Make eye contact and put down your phone or other distractions so you can fully focus on the person.
- Respond enthusiastically, even if the bid is minor.
- Ask questions to show interest and learn more about what they’re sharing.
- Validate the underlying emotion, e.g., “It makes sense that you would feel anxious.”
- Share a related story or experience to convey that you relate.
- Offer help or assistance if relevant.
- Apologize quickly if you miss a bid and respond to it.
- If you cannot respond straight away, reassure them that you will respond fully when you feel less overwhelmed.
So, tying this back to the bird test proposed by TikTok user Alyssa Caribardi, next time your friend or partner enthusiastically points out a woodpecker, make sure you don’t ignore them!
Acknowledge that they want to connect with you, so take a moment to admire the bird together or any other bid they present to you.
According to Gottman, you will be nourishing a strong relationship that endures. After all, it’s not grand gestures but small daily attentions that allow intimacy to grow.
Brittle, Z. (n.d.). Want to Improve Your Relationship? Start Paying More Attention to Bids. The Gottman Institute.
Gottman, J., & Gottman, J. (2017). The natural principles of love. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 9(1), 7-26.
Lisitsa, E. (n.d.). An Introduction to Emotional Bids and Trust. The Gottman Institute.
Ury, L. (n.d.). Want to Improve Your Relationship? Start Paying More Attention to Bids. The Gottman Institute.