The Emotional Bank Account

emotional bank account

In my Fresh Start training last week, we discussed the Emotional Bank Account.

An emotional bank account is a metaphor that describes the amount of trust that has been built up in a relationship.  It’s the feeling of assurance you have with another person.

As Stephen R Covey describes in his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, when you make enough deposits through kindness, courtesy, honesty and keeping commitments, you make deposits in your Emotional Bank Account, and build up a reserve.

When you have made enough deposits and others have established enough trust in you, you can call upon that trust if you need to.

So if and when you 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’.

However, if you are unkind, disrespectful, uncaring and mean, you draw from this account.

When the trust is high, communication is easier, quicker and more effective.

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.

During the Lockdown, if you do nothing it won’t take long to withdraw everything. Your team are no doubt having mixed emotions at the moment: confused, anxious, uncertain, bored, lonely, stressed.

If they are on furlough or working from home, now might be the time when people most need you to make some deposits.

There are six major deposits we can make to the emotional bank account, and how these are relevant right now:

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.

Recognise that people’s priorities may be a little different right now, so keeping in contact with your team, answering their questions and listening to their concerns is critical right now.

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.

So, for example if they are on furlough and only getting 80% of their normal pay, that 20% shortfall could make the difference between just getting by, and really struggling to pay the rent or feed the family.

Keeping commitments

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. 

If you’ve promised an update by a certain date, make sure you deliver this, even if it’s to say no news.

Clarifying expectations

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.

Confidentiality about others in your team is paramount.

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.

Last week we discussed the emotional bank account in the context of establishing trust with your team. However, it is just as relevant in building trust with customers, suppliers or third parties.

Action point

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.

Related post: How to earn trust

Related video: Do your customers and team feel trusted


Share This:

FacebooktwitterFacebooktwitter

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Naturally Loyal