The Emotional Bank Account by Stephen Covey

An Emotional Bank Account is a metaphor that describes the amount of trust that’s been built up in a relationship.  It’s the feeling of safeness you have with another human being. – Stephen Covey

This book, which I haven’t picked up somewhere between 6-12 months, has given me the best insight on relationships.  I never thought about it this way.  If we look at a financial bank account, we regularly make deposits into it and make withdrawals when we need to.  If we look at it from an emotional standpoint, this could be the most life-changing chapters I’ve read in any book in my entire life.

If we look at attributes such as courtesy, kindness, honesty, and commitment, these need to be deposited into another person’s emotional bank account to build up the reserve.  However, if you make deposits of discourtesy, disrespect, cutting someone off while they’re talking (lol), overreacting, ignoring you, becoming arbitrary, betraying trust, threats, or anything else…ultimately that bank account will become overdrawn.

This happens to all of us.  I will give you a fine example.  I had a friend named Lukka who would always say, “you have a girlfriend. You have a girlfriend. You have a girlfriend.” If you guys know me well enough, Thai girlfriend and Arsenio in the same sentence is like saying red is the same color as blue.  When I heard these things over and over, I got more antsy and became much more irritable than the prior months.  Then, there was that birthday morning when I was accused of deleting a FB post, only to find out it was still there.  I blew up, had enough, and was overdrawn completely.  I blocked her on every form of communication and that was the end.

My bank account reserve was completely maxed out to the point the deterioration that was happening skyrocketed and I called the quits.

Look at it from a marriage standpoint.  Instead of relationship sustained by love and open-communication; it turns into one of accommodation.  What does that mean? Two humans beings living with each other just because they don’t want to take the first step in breaking up. Two people attempting to live independent lifestyles in a fairly respectful and tolerant way.  What happens next are the verbal battles, slammed doors, refusal to talk, emotional withdrawal and self-pity.  Your kids will be the ones that suffer.

Our constant relationships, like marriage, require our most constant deposits.  With containing expectations, old deposits evaporate.  If you suddenly run into an old high school friend you haven’t seen for years, you can pick up right where you left off because the earlier deposits are still there.  But your accounts with the people you interact with on a regular basis require more constant investment.

Imagine telling your child everyday, “clean your room! Finish your food! Stop doing that. Stop making all that noise! Take out the garbage!” Over a period of time, the withdrawals far exceed the deposits.

I’ll give you an excellent example.  My sister, who I love dearly, would constantly scream at her son.  So, when he was 6-7 years old, he became very disobedient and didn’t listen whatsoever.  My brother, who is almost ALWAYS angry, would get angry every time he didn’t answer, resulting in a rapidly deteriorating relationship and a very withdrawn account. By the time 2013 rolled around and I was leaving, that nephew of mine didn’t even want to give me a hug because he had so many withdrawals over time…..so he no longer cared (or to his argument, maybe he just didn’t want to give me a hug).

So, what can you do to have better communication? Start making deposits.  These deposits, which can work for almost all relationships you have, can be something like doing something spontaneous.  If you have a son, take him out for lunch.  If you have a girlfriend, pick her up and go to the movies or a restaurant without telling her where you’re actually going.  There was a time back in 2nd grade when I went home with my friend Jessica to play video games.  I heard from the kitchen, “Arsenio, Jessica has to leave now because we’re going to Peter Piper Pizza” (PPP was a Utopic, pizza playhouse for young kids).  I was confused at first and couldn’t believe it because my parents never surprised us, but we ultimately went to PPP.  That was probably the biggest surprise I ever got in my childhood.  Plans were made, but nothing that spontaneous. That overdrawn balance would shrink maybe for a day or two.

Overall, it’s hard not to get impatient.  Remember, nurturing things, relationships and so many things; on top of focusing on your circle of influence, can be daunting.  In my next blog, I’ll talk about the six major deposits.

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