I’m currently reading Stephen Covey’s famous book – the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and one particular concept stood out to me – The Emotional Bank.
We all know what a financial bank is. We regularly make deposits and withdrawal of cash.
Similarly, with an emotional bank, we make deposits and withdrawals too – but the currency is instead love, respect and trust.
The Emotional Bank balance then becomes a metaphor for the amount of trust that has been built up in a relationship. So if I regularly make deposits through acts of kindness, honesty, keeping my promises, I will have high amounts of reserves in the relationship. So when I make mistakes, chances are you would forgive me.
On the flipside, if I constantly make ‘withdrawals’, displaying a habit of disrespecting, ignoring, breaking promises – there would be a low emotional bank balance between us. I would have to always be careful of what I say because I know our relationship isn’t based on trust.
The key is to always have deposits > withdrawals.
I think this concept is evident in relationships that fail vs thrive. Early into a relationship, the emotional bank balance is likely high – you are constantly displaying love and affection, you are your best self and less likely to raise your voice …but over time, people have a tendency to take those closest to them for granted. That’s when you may deposit less, but start withdrawing more. Maybe you start canceling regular routine date nights for more exciting activities with friends, maybe you think it’s ok to start calling a little lesser, a little later. Eventually you will deplete the emotional bank and that’s when you hit a point of no return in a relationship.
I think humans naturally like things that are quantifiable. It’s not a new thing to hear that you should always invest in your relationship but where this concept stands out is in its ability to create a quantifiable effect in your mind. That “oh crap i bailed on her 3 times already, I better make it up to her for the next few dates”.
So how do you make deposits? Covey suggests 6 major deposits that can help build the Emotional bank balance.
1. Understanding the Individual
Really seeking to understand the person – what is important to them, what interest them. Maybe they love being outdoors and you love being indoors. So curling up at home reading a book together may seem like a deposit to you, but it’s a withdrawal to them.
I think it’s very similar to understanding each other’s love languages.
In the book – I particularly loved one example and quote. A guy took his son, who is an avid baseball player to every major league that summer and upon his return he was asked “Do you like baseball that much?” and he replied “No, but I like my son that much”.
2. Attending to the Little things
Life is less about the grand things but the small little things that add up. Covering your loved one with a blanket, a tight hug after a long day, cooking for them when they are sick, telling them you are proud of them. It’s these daily affirmations and actions that matter the most.
Most people may put a brave front but are still tender and sensitive on the inside.
3. Keeping your promises
Keeping a promise is a major deposit and breaking one is a major withdrawal. Nothing screams I don’t really care more than a broken promise. I’m not talking about those broken promises due to unforeseen circumstances, but those due to callousness and lack of concern.
A man is only as good as his word.
4. Clarifying expectations
Each partner carries with them an implicit expectation of one another, and when their basic expectations are violated, that reserve in the emotional bank depletes. So to avoid land mines, make the expectations clear and explicit from the get go, it will save you lots of misunderstandings and communication breakdowns.
5. Showing Personal Integrity
You can do all of the above, and still fail to build the emotional bank if you lack integrity. Integrity includes and goes beyond honesty. To quote the book ‘Honesty is conforming our words to reality, Integrity is confirming reality to our words’. It’s being loyal to those who are not present.
You may get the short term pleasure of maybe getting along with the crowd, or sharing privileged information but it will come at a long term cost.
6. Apologising sincerely after making a withdrawal
It takes great character strength to be able to own up to our mistakes and make a sincere apology. To quote an Eastern proverb ‘If you are going to bow, bow low’. Sincere apologies make deposits but repeated apologies actually shows insincerity and is a withdrawal.
Because how sincere can you be if you allow yourself to repeatedly do that very action?
Hope you enjoyed this concept.
Here’s to hope and love xx