In the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People course, DR Stephen R. Covey describes what he calls “The Emotional Bank Account”. You have an EBA with everyone you know on more than just a very casual basis. As in any bank account, you may make deposits and withdrawals.
Deposits may take the form of sincere compliments and appreciation for a job well done, offering to cover for a co-worker while he/she needs time off to tend to an emergency, or offering to help when you see another is overwhelmed. Any gesture that conveys your positive interest in the working relationship can be a deposit.
Withdrawals could include showing up late for a meeting, gossiping, failing to fulfill your part of the workload, just to mention a few.
The Emotional Bank Account balance you have with another may be expected to rise with more deposits and to fall with more withdrawals. Now, before you say “DUH”, take a moment to consider your co-workers. When was the last time you gave any thought to where your balance is with them? Think about your boss, or those who work for you, your spouse, and your children. How often do you consider whether you are making more deposits than withdrawals with them? It’s so easy in this fast-paced world of ours to keep charging ahead and never stop long enough to consider our investments in the lives of those closest to us.
As you consider how you might improve the important relationships in your life, I offer two points to consider. One is that everyone you know is unique and what might be a deposit for one could easily be neutral or even negative to another. It is important to consider the person on the receiving end and determine how your intended deposit might come across and be received by them.
DR Gary Chapman has made a career of studying relationships. His best-known book, The Five Love Languages, has sold multi-millions of copies and has been produced in several languages. While written for marriage, the concepts have applicability in the workplace as well. To improve relationships in your life you may want to invest some time to determine what makes others light up, or shut down.
By making deposits which they would define as deposits and by avoiding what they would consider to be withdrawals you will find your relationships soaring into positive territory.
If you really wanted to improve a relationship and could only make more deposits or fewer withdrawals, which would be more profitable? Most people choose “make more deposits.” While this is the most common answer it is not the correct one. DR John Gottman, of the University of Washington, has studied relationships for over 25 years and has come to the conclusion that making fewer withdrawals is the far more effective way to improve a relationship.
His reasoning is that withdrawals cause far more damage than the good done by deposits. For every withdrawal made, he estimates it can take between 5 and 15 deposits just to undo the damage and restore the relationship to where it was before the withdrawal. You can make numerous appropriate deposits, but if withdrawals continue, the deposits will not get you into positive territory with the other person.
So instead of always playing catch-up, you should identify and stop the things you are doing that the other would consider negative and hurtful to the relationship. When in doubt you might consider asking him or her. This takes courage and should only be done in important relationships, but it could spare you hours of grief and further withdrawals.
Nobody ever said meaningful relationships are easy to maintain or that work groups should just naturally function well as a team. But, with the addition of deposits and the reduction of withdrawals you should find it easier and more enjoyable to get along well with others.