An emotional bank account is a metaphor that describes the amount of trust that has been built up in a relationship (as described by Stephen Covey in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) . It’s the feeling of assurance you have with another person.
If you make enough deposits with others through courtesy, kindness, honesty and keeping your commitments to them, you build up a reserve.
This means that on the odd occasion when things go wrong, or you end up letting someone down – be that a team member, customer or friend – you have a sufficient balance that any withdrawal doesn’t take you ‘over drawn’.
Because others have established enough trust in you, you can call upon that trust if you need to.
When you are kind, honest, caring and friendly to another person, you make deposits on an Emotional Bank Account. However, if you are unkind, disrespectful, uncaring and mean, you draw from this account.
When the trust is high, communication is easy, instant and effective.
There are six major deposits we can make to the emotional bank account:
Understanding the individual
One person’s mission is another person’s minutia. To make a deposit, what is important to another person must be as important to you as the other person is to you.
Attending to the seemingly insignificant
Kindnesses and courtesies are so important. Forms of disrespect make large withdrawals. In relationships, the things that can seem insignificant to you can count for others.
Keeping a commitment is a major deposit; breaking one is a major withdrawal. In fact there’s probably no larger withdrawal than to make a promise that’s important to someone and then not keep that promise.
The cause of many relationship difficulties is often rooted in conflicting or ambiguous expectations around roles and goals. Unclear expectations will lead to misunderstanding, disappointment and withdrawals of trust. Many expectations are implicit and the deposit is to make the expectations clear and explicit in the first place.
This takes a real investment of time and effort up front, but saves great amounts of time and effort in the long run. When expectations are not clear and shared, simple misunderstandings become compounded, turning into personality clashes and communication breakdowns. It does, however, take courage.
Showing personal integrity
Lack of integrity can undermine almost any other effort to create high trust accounts. It goes beyond honesty. Integrity is conforming to the reality of our words – keeping promises and fulfilling expectations. One way of manifesting integrity is to be loyal to those who are not present.
Apologising sincerely when you make a withdrawal
Great deposits come in the sincere words – “I was wrong”, “I showed you no respect”, “I’m sorry”. It takes a great deal of character strength to apologise. A person must have a deep sense of security to genuinely apologise. It is one thing to make a mistake, and quite another not to admit it.
If you only do one thing this week:
Review the 6 types of deposits and identify just one whereby doing more of it (with either your customers or your team) could make a major impact in your emotional bank account.