Habit 6: Emotional Bank Account
By Mary Hunt
Every relationship you have, whether it is a personal or business connection, a spouse or work colleague, a family member or neighbour, you inevitably form a joint emotional
bank account whether you realize it or not. Just like any monetary bank account, when there are constant deposits a sense of security, comfort and trust are developed. Conversely, withdrawals over time can threaten that sense of security and cause stress and anxiety. That same sense of security is formed within any personal relationship
and directly affects each other’s emotional bank account. Just like money, it can waver up and down.
When you deposit money into your bank account consistently, the withdrawals you make here and there won’t affect the overall healthy balance. But we all know what
happens if we continually make withdrawals over and over again without topping up the account; we become overdrawn and bankruptcy can loom. So how do two people form a joint emotional bank account? In any relationship, when we treat people with respect, kindness and courtesy, these result in deposits to your joint emotional bank account and alternatively treating people with disrespect, rudeness and neglect will ultimately result in withdrawals.
Imagine a work colleague who is always friendly, who replies quickly to your emails, who provides you with required reports in a timely manner and offers assistance whenever possible. You, in turn, share your appreciation with them, offer them positive and constructive feedback, and show them respect and admiration. Both you and your colleague are doing an excellent job of filling up the emotional bank account in a very healthy way. Perhaps one day, however, your colleague is having a bad day and doesn’t meet an important deadline which directly affects your work. This would be considered a withdrawal to the account. Would you be upset? Possibly, but because they have proven themselves to be trustworthy and reliable and this was clearly a “one- off”, they are quickly forgiven. In fact, your colleague takes it one step further by apologizing sincerely and taking responsibility for their blunder, showing great maturity and integrity. So even though they made a withdrawal, the net effect to your joint account is negligible and you can continue to grow your strong relationship and watch the balance grow.
Now let's envision a different scenario. Imagine from your colleague's point of view that they feel that you don't appreciate all they do. Imagine you don't answer their emails, and you rarely show your gratitude for their commitment and willingness to help. Your feedback is sparse, and your expectations are often unclear to them. One day, in an attempt at humour, you make what you think is a harmless joke at their expense. Are you surprised at their negative emotional reaction? What you thought may be a neutral thing or a deposit was actually a withdrawal for them because you have not been making deposits to your shared account. Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes when a relationship has a low or negative balance.
These scenarios can be used in any kind of relationship. Think of a negative personal relationship in the past and try to recall who was making the deposits and who was making the withdrawals. In hindsight, it is often easy to see where things went wrong. Sometimes, a relationship can be so subtle that you don’t realize an account is forming until you have an interaction that affects you emotionally, or causes an unexpected emotional reaction from “the other” . It is important to remember that each individual will decide what is a withdrawal and what is a deposit for them - a comment made in jest from one individual may feel like a deposit, while the same comment from someone else could be an immediate withdrawal. So how can you strengthen your current relationships and strive for positive balances? Help each other be the best they can be. Be sincere and kind and always look for their greatness. Always stand by your promises and inevitably when you make a withdrawal, admit it, apologize sincerely and quickly and if the withdrawal was against you, don’t hold a grudge, accept their apology and move forward together.