The Emotional Bank Account

Have you ever tried to apologise to someone only to see them refusing to forgive you, or as people often say, just to give you the cold shoulder? We might often think that it is the other person’s problem – since we have already apologised, we don’t bear any responsibility. It’s all on them now. Well, let me let you in on a fact not many people realise – there is no quick fix to the emotional relationship problems in any context.

In his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective Peoples, Stephen R. Covey introduces a concept he refers to as the Emotional Bank Account. He talks about the idea that every person develops a collection of emotions in every single relationship. This means that you have an emotional account with your partner, with each of your parents, every single friend that you have or even with your boss at work. Understanding this will allow you to shift your perception regarding your relationships.

Long-Term, Regular Deposits

Relationships are long-term, dynamic entities. This is why Covey introduces the concept of an emotional bank account, as we all hopefully perceive our bank accounts as long-term expandable entities we need to take care of regularly. That also applies in our relationships. We have to actively and regularly make positive deposits to keep our accounts in a plus. We also make certain withdrawals.

Covey draws the metaphor of deposits for us to understand that we have to take proactive action in order to develop our relationships. Similarly, when we break a promise, hurt someone or make them feel bad in a specific situation, we are making an emotional withdrawal. If you make more withdrawals than deposits in number and size, you will get yourself in a situation where you need to “catch up” – you have a negative relationship with a specific person, or they feel negatively about you. It is the long-term result of the continuous bad experiences they have had with you (withdrawals you have made from their emotional bank account with you). This means that even if you do a small positive deed, they will not feel positively about you.

Change Your Approach

Many of us need to think about how we approach our relationships. We need to develop the ability to visit the emotional bank accounts we have with other people and see the reason behind people’s actions. Similarly, we need to understand that working on developing a relationship is a long-term game, which means we have to constantly invest in our relationships in order to maintain them and grow them. Another crucial part of this concept is the understanding of the fact that what you might see as a deposit, another person might perceive as a withdrawal.

Say your son loves football, but you are interested in tennis. There is a football game taking place in the town, but you ignore it and have him attend a tennis game with you. The evening, from your perspective, is a deposit because you had fun and you have taken your son out to a sports game, which is awesome, right?! Well, in your son’s eyes, you have ignored the football game and you have taken him to some random tennis match he doesn’t even care about. From his perspective, it was a major withdrawal. So don’t be surprised when he refuses to talk to you tomorrow while eating breakfast.

Keep Your Word

Additionally, integrity and consistency with your commitments and promises is a key factor in developing a positive emotional bank balance with the people around you. You can not choose to not stand behind your words and promises and expect other people to believe you. Pay close attention to what you talk about, who you talk about and to how you talk. Pay close attention to what you promise to others and how you manage to perform based on those promises. All these little actions are deposits and withdrawals you are regularly making.

How do you think you are doing in terms of the emotional bank accounts you have with the people around you? Let us know in the comments!

Frank from The Real Life Education

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