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We all know what a financial bank account is. An emotional bank account is similar to a financial bank account. It is a metaphor used to describe the trust in a relationship. If I make a deposit into an emotional bank account with you through courtesy, kindness, honesty, and keeping my commitments to you, I build up a reserve. Your trust toward me becomes higher. When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.
Six major deposits for an emotional bank account
1. Understanding the individual
Really seeking to understand another person is one of the most important deposits. You simply don’t know what is a deposit to another person until you understand the individual. What might be a deposit for you – going for a walk to talk things over, going out for ice cream, working on a common project — might not be perceived by someone else as a deposit at all. It might even be perceived as a withdrawal if it doesn’t fulfill the other person’s deep interests or needs.
The son of a friend of Stephen Covey, the author of the 7 habits of highly effective people, developed an interest in Baseball. Despite not being interested in Baseball at all, the dad took his son to all of the major Baseball games one summer. The tickets ended up costing a lot of money, however, the experience created a great bonding opportunity and ended up establishing a great relationship.
Another friend of Stephen Covey who was a college professor had a son that liked working with his hands. The dad thought his son was wasting his time working with his hands, he thought his son should focus on developing his mind instead. In every opportunity the dad got, he made sure to criticize his son. This led to a sour relationship and broke the dad’s heart multiple times. Every time his dad tried to fix the relationship, it seemed like another way of rejecting or criticizing the son.
2. The little things:
The little kindnesses and courtesies are so important. Small discourtesies, little unkindness, little forms of disrespect make large withdrawals in relationships. Essentially, the little things are the big things in relationships.
Think about the times someone did something small for you and it seemed like a really big deal. This could be either good or bad. Maybe your partner complimented you or bought you a gift for no reason and that made you feel really happy. Or maybe your partner seemed rude and that upset you.
Either way, sometimes small actions can end up making big impacts.
3. Keeping commitments
Keeping commitments and honoring promises is an imperative component of healthy relationships. People tend to build their hopes around promises that are important to them, and not honoring your promise can lead to massive consequences. It’s quite difficult to gain someone’s trust after violating it.
Think about the time someone did not keep their commitment to you or honor their promise, did you ever feel the same about that person again? Probably not.
4. Clarifying Expectations
Imagine applying for a job and getting accepted, however, there is one problem. You do not know when to start or what to do. So, you decide to email the company to ask and the company tells you they were waiting for you to draft a proposal for what your duties would be. This would be an awkward encounter, right?
Well, most relationships suffer due to unclear expectations. If your partner, friend, or child does not know what the expectations are. Chances are they won’t meet them. Which will lead you to be frustrated or vice versa.
Setting expectations upfront can seem like hard work but it is definitely worth it if you want to have a healthy relationship. Imagine if you went to school and the expectations for good grades or academic success was not stated. Would you know how to do better or improve yourself? Chances are you would be really confused and frustrated.
5. Showing personal integrity
Having personal integrity will make you a person that is trusted and loved by everyone. You will be admired and respected for your integrity and honesty. However, integrity is more than just telling the truth.
You can establish integrity by being loyal to people that are not present. Refraining from speaking behind their backs. Let’s say you are in a friend group with 3 people. While you and friend 2 are together, friend 2 starts bad-mouthing friend 3 or talks about something private friend 3 told friend 2. Would you trust friend 2 or tell him anything private?
No, you would not. Because you know that if your relationship ever deteriorated with friend 2, he would bad-mouth you and talk about your weaknesses. However, most of us end up doing this anyway. We decide to bad-mouth other people and destroy our personal integrity.
Next time you see someone talking behind the back of someone else, suggest being honest with the person they’re criticizing. Say you work at a coffee shop and your coworker starts talking about all of the bad qualities of the manager. If you suggest talking to the manager and creating a presentation on these problems, you will establish personal integrity with your co-worker and your manager for being honest.
People may not appreciate your honesty initially but eventually, you will be respected and honored. Honesty and integrity pays off in the long run.
6. Apologizing sincerely when you make a withdrawal
This seems like an obvious deposit, being able to own up to your mistakes and admit you were in the wrong. However, most people are insecure about doing this and think they will be perceived as weak or soft. They also think people take advantage of their softness and exploit them. Their insecurity leads them to try to justify themselves and distort reality to rationalize their behavior.
Justifying mistakes only leads to damaging the relationship further. As Leo Roskin once said, “It is the weak who are cruel. Gentleness can only be expected from the strong.”
It is one thing to make a mistake, and another thing not to admit it. People will forgive mistakes because everyone makes mistakes, mistakes of judgment. But people will not easily forgive the mistakes of the heart, the ill intention, the bad motives, the prideful justifying cover-up of the first mistake.
Book: 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen Covey