Deposits and Withdrawals


Be intentional about all of your relationships.

The late Dr. Steven Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, had a brilliant concept in his book called the “emotional bank account.” Dr. Covey illustrated that each of our relationships contain deposits and withdrawals.  Dr. Covey states that “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.”  Dr. Covey goes on to assert that we make deposits and build up a reserve in our relationships through: courtesy, kindness, honesty, and keeping commitments.  By continually making deposits we can be assured that when withdrawals are made there is enough reserve to cover it.  When the trust/emotional account level is at a high balance, communication is easy, instant and effective.

Here are some examples of deposits that I appreciate: showing up when scheduled, follow through, prompt response on messages, good manners, and respecting my time (my doctor’s office could stand to learn these things).

Deposits can be made in all our relationships.  And so can withdrawals.

If someone has a habit of “showing discourtesy, disrespect, cutting you off, overreacting, ignoring you, becoming arbitrary, betraying your trust, threatening you or playing little tin god in your life” your emotional bank account will eventually become overdrawn and the trust levels get low.

Here are some examples of things I consider to be withdrawals:  wasting my time, not responding to my messages, not being accountable, lying to me, and taking advantage of me.

Sometimes, relationships get so tense that they become overdrawn or, they are officially declared bankrupt or unsalvageable.

Dr. Covey identifies six ways to make deposits (or reduce withdrawals):

Understanding the Individual:  “Really seeking to understand another person is probably one of the most important deposits you can make, and it is key to every other deposit.”

Attending to the Little Things:  “The little kindnesses and courtesies are so important.  Small discourtesies, little unkindness’s, little forms of disrespect make large withdrawals.  In relationships, the little things are the big things.”

Keeping Commitments:  “Keeping a commitment or a promise is a major deposit; breaking one is a major withdrawal.  In fact, there’s probably not a more massive withdrawal than to make a promise that’s important to someone and then not to come through.  The next time a promise is made, they won’t believe it.  People tend to build their hopes around promises, particularly promises about their basic livelihood.”  I get so annoyed when people habitually cancel.  Has that ever happened to you?

Clarifying Expectations:  “Imagine the difficulty you might encounter if you and your boss had different assumptions regarding whose role it was to create your job description.” Or in many of our cases, imagine if you and your child had different expectations of household responsibilities or even a curfew?

Showing Personal Integrity:  “Personal integrity generates trust and is the basis of many different kinds of deposits.  Lack of integrity can undermine almost any other effort to create high trust accounts.  People can seek to understand, remember the little things, keep their promises, clarify and fulfill expectations, and still fail to build reserves of trust if they are inwardly duplicitous.”

Apologizing Sincerely When You Make a Withdrawal:  When we make withdrawals from the Emotional Bank Account, we need to apologize and we need to do it sincerely.  It takes a great deal of character strength to apologize quickly out of one’s heart rather than out of pity.”

Several months ago I presented the Emotional Bank Account model to the mothers and teen girls of the Whatever Girls. It went over really well and was a “sticky lesson” for everyone.  Every so often I’ll hear the girls bantering back and forth about “deposits” and “withdrawals”.

What do you do if you have a relationship with a declining balance?  You make some deposits.  And not just any deposit.  As #1 above stated, it’s important to understand the individual.  For example, if I’ve made some withdrawals from my daughter’s emotional bank account I try to think of a way to make a deposit that will really mean a lot to her.  I like to take Dr. Covey’s theory and pair it with Dr. Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages.  Try making deposits that line up with the person’s love language.

Take Away:  Be intentional about all of your relationships.

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