The phrase Emotional Bank Account was coined by Stephen Covey. Which I personally feel is incredibly important to interpersonal relationships. If you have not heard the phrase before, the basic premise is that anyone we interact with friends, partner, family members, colleagues, co-workers etc we have an emotional bank account with. And as we interact me make emotional deposits and withdrawals.
When the relationship starts off, just as with a financial bank account your emotional bank account is at zero. Instead of trading in dollars, we trade in deeds, actions, etc. Things that make people feel good, or that may assist them in some way are a positive deposit and will help build the relationship. It assists in developing trust, rapport, respect and connection.
When you ask a favour, or do something not so nice it becomes a withdrawal. A balanced relationship can weather withdrawals as there have been deposits made.
Where people can come unstuck is when they continually ask for favours without making any deposits. Initially this is ok, because as humans we want to help, we want people to succeed and we will do what we can. But over time when there are no deposits coming back your way, a person can start to feel a bit used or neglected. And when this happens relationships can fracture.
In life the majority of people are balanced and there is give and take, this is done naturally. Even a transaction of giving money for a service or product can go into the emotional bank. There are however some people, who due to their nature of wanting to please people give, give, give – they get burnt out and can end up feeling unworthy, disrespected and unloved. On the other side there are the takers, those that continually want, want, want with no give in return. This behaviour has no impact on the taker as they are getting what they want, however it can leave people feeling used and disrespected.
There are times in life where we do have to ask for help and assistance, more so than at other times. But if your emotional bank accounts have been nurtured and tendered to then this is ok. I recently found myself in this position, I hate to ask for help but I had to, there was no other option. But I knew that the people I asked, over the many years of friendship had healthy accounts. And whilst I didn’t like asking for help it was given unconditionally with love and support. That is what you want from your relationships.
So how do you go about resolving an unbalanced emotional bank account? Well the first step is to acknowledge to yourself where you may have been withdrawing without making deposits, you have to be honest here, if you cannot be honest then there is more serious work that needs to be done. Only you can know this. If the relationship is worth saving then you have two options, start making deposits or speak up, let the person know that you are aware that you have been making a lot of withdrawals and you are sorry for this, ask how you can go about resolving the imbalance. If it is a relationship that you both value, it is worth it. The honesty in itself is a good deposit.
So I challenge you to look at your key relationships and honesty rate them. Where do they sit, are they out of balance? Select one and take the next week to build your deposits – it is easier than you think.
My top tips to build your emotional bank account:
1. If you make a withdrawal:
- Ask for help, then always thank the person.
- Do or say something wrong, apologise and be sincere.
2. Keep commitments, this does not just mean showing up, it means being on time. It means calling when you say you will. Being constantly late and making people wait or not calling ‘later’ when this is what you have stated you will do, is a withdrawal each and every time.
3. The core of the emotional bank accounts is trust. The best way to build trust is with personal integrity, be congruent. Words and actions must match.
4. Attend to the little things they really do count. As an example not responding to a message or invitation is disrespectful, it takes less than a minute to respond. To say you have been too busy, is actually saying the other person was not important enough. Ok sometimes we forget, after all we are human, but when that happens go back to tip 1 and apologise.