The ‘Bird Test’ Relationship Hack Is Actually Based in Research

The ‘Bird Test’ Relationship Hack Is Actually Based in Research

A “new” dating hack trending on TikTok is for the birds—literally. In a recent TikTok video, content creator Lyss Lyss (@alyssacardib) shares how the“bird test” can predict if a couple’s relationship will last or not.

“The bird test states that 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 says in the video.

Lyss shares an anecdote about sitting at a Starbucks with a friend and pointing out a woodpecker she saw out the window. They ended up having a conversation about the bird and googling facts about it. They have remained close ever since.

But Lyss’s video includes a warning, too: “If [your partner] blows you off, they don’t even acknowledge you, and they’re just like, ‘Oh, cool, a woodpecker,’ that’s a really bad sign.”

On the surface, the “bird test” seems a little silly, like another surface-level viral sensation—does it really mean anything if someone doesn’t get excited about a woodpecker? What if the person just doesn’t care about birds? But the premise is actually rooted in research. Specifically, it’s an example of what’s known as a “bid for connection.”

What is a bid for connection?

The Gottman Institute, helmed by Drs. John and Julie Gottman, pioneered the study behind bids for connection and their research reveals that couples who turn toward connection bids 86 percent of the time have significantly higher chances of sustaining a lasting, healthy relationship compared with those who do not.

“Bids for connection are an invitation from one person to another to engage mentally and emotionally,” Dr. Carla Marie Manly, psychologist and author of Date Smart, tells Lifehacker. “When two people engage in attuned acts of connection, a true sense of bonding occurs. Through a lens of attachment theory, a bid for connection represents an opportunity for one person to attune to another person’s interests and needs. Vulnerability arises when a bid for connection is made from one person to another. When a person responds—turns toward—a partners’ bid for connection, a bond is fostered. When an individual turns away from a partner’s bid for connection, feelings such as anger, hurt, and resentment arise.”

How is the ‘bird test’ a bid for connection?

Using this principle, the ‘bird test’ isn’t just for the birds. In fact it says more about the connection between the two people who might or might not be talking about said birds.

“The TikTok bird trend is an interesting example of how one’s awareness of anything—in this case, a bird—can become an opportunity for displaying interest and attuned behavior,” Manly says. “When a person—whether a friend, family member, or romantic partner—takes a genuine interest in something that the other person finds meaningful, the sense of connection can be profound. Bids for connection may seem trivial to some, but—when responded to in positive ways—they have tremendous potential to foster strong intimacy and trust over time.”

But as sociologist and sexologist, Sarah Melancon, points out, she’s wary of the bird test being used as a “test” rather than as genuine in-the-moment bid.

“Relationship tests are not recommended because they are manipulative and inauthentic — if you feel the need to test a partner, it is possible you have issues with trust,” she says. “Furthermore, the expectation for the partner’s response seems stronger than Gottman’s research would suggest is necessary.”

Melancon cites the example given by Lyss that if a partner simply replies, “Oh, cool, a woodpecker,” that is a “bad sign,” and that a better sign would be if the bird test led to an in-depth discussion on woodpeckers or Googling interesting woodpecker facts. However, from Gottman’s perspective, says Melancon, responding, “Oh, cool, a woodpecker,” is actually responding to the “bid” in a positive manner.

“It could be concerning if they did not respond at all or had a negative response, like saying, ‘Who cares? Woodpeckers are annoying,” Melancon explains.

How to stay open to bids for connection from your partner

It’s important to know that bids for connection come in many forms – and to remember that your bids for connection won’t always be met and that’s okay too.

While Lyss proclaiming that she won’t date someone who doesn’t respond to her bird test might work for her, Manly questions whether that’s a good boundary to have.

“Although I appreciate the woman’s boundary regarding not dating someone who does not respond to her bird-specific bid for attention, it does seem like a fairly random standard,” she says. “For example, a wonderful partner may not have a strong interest in birds—and thus not respond as she’d like—but they may respond very well to other bids for connection. As another example, a person may be very tired or stressed at the moment a bird appears, and under most circumstances would show an interest in bird sightings. What’s most important is a person’s overall behavior in response to bids for attention rather than an arbitrary, one-time test regarding birds.”

In fact, Manly says we are naturally making bids for connection most of the time when with a romantic partner, loved ones, friends, or in work settings.

“A common example of a bid for connection in a romantic relationship is inviting a partner to tell you about their day,” she explains. “Invitations to engage in sex, make dinner together, or play games are all bids for connection. In fact, many interactions between partners actually begin with a bid for connection by a partner.”

And while you’re more than welcome to try out the bird test on your next date, Melancon advises using it with caution.

“Gottman’s research found that couples who were happy for the long term tended to turn towards a partner’s bids 86% of the time — that means 14% of the time, even in happy relationships, partners turned away or against,” Melancon says. “There are many reasons one may not turn towards any particular bid — distraction, being in the middle of a conversation about something else, being lost in thought about another topic, not realizing a bid was made. Missing one bid does not spell doom for any relationship.”

Likewise, nor does it mean you have an impeck-able connection. Use your own discernment and maybe give them another chance before you let them fly.

Lead Image Credit: iStock

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