Paying it forward is one way to make regular deposits into your various emotional bank accounts. I first became aware of the concept of an emotional bank account about 20 years ago when I read Stephen Covey’s great book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Interpersonally competent people make regular deposits in the emotional bank accounts they have with all of the people in their lives.
In the Spring of 2008, a major league baseball team made a huge deposit into the emotional bank account it has with several different groups of people.
The New York Yankees traveled from Florida to Virginia to play an exhibition game against the Virginia Tech baseball team. They did this to support the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund that was created to cover grief counseling, memorials and other costs for the victims and their families of the Virginia Tech shootings. If you recall, in 2007, a Virginia Tech student Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people in two campus buildings before committing suicide.
I’m not a Yankee fan, but I’ll remember this game the next time George Steinbrenner, their owner, does something stupid that ends up in the press. The emotional bank account I have with the Yankees got a major deposit that day.
The emotional bank account that the New York Yankees have with the Virginia Tech community got an even bigger deposit that day. The Yankees helped raise a lot of money for a very sad and deserving cost. They brought some happiness and light to a campus struggling with the memory of the shootings.
Finally, the Yankees made a big deposit into the emotional bank accounts of anyone who is a baseball fan. Compassion and a willingness to pitch in and help goes a long way in filling emotional bank accounts.
Most of us don’t get to make such grand gestures. However, we can choose to make regular deposits into the emotional bank accounts we have with the people in our lives. There are six ways you can make deposits into the emotional bank accounts you have with people important to you.
Make a sincere effort to understand other people. Figure out what’s important to all of the key people in your life. Make what’s important to them, important to you.
Pay attention to the little things; because little things are big things in relationships.
Keep your commitments. Every time you do what you say you’ll do, you’ll be making an emotional bank account deposit. Every time you fail to keep your word, you’ll be making a withdrawal.
Be clear on what you want and expect from another person. When you’re clear on what you want, it makes it easier for others to give it to you. When you take the time to gain clarity on what others want, it’s easier for you to keep your commitments.
Be honest. Make sure your words and actions are congruent. Remember what Mark Twain has to say. “Always tell the truth. That way you don’t have to remember anything.”
Apologize when you make a withdrawal. Often, a sincere apology will be enough of an emotional bank account deposit to offset the withdrawal you made. However, this works only for the occasional withdrawal. You can’t continually break your word or miss your commitments and think that an apology will keep your emotional bank account full.
The common sense point here is simple. Make regular deposits to the emotional bank accounts you have with all of the important people in your life. Keep your balances high. In that way, you won’t be overdrawn when you have to make the occasional withdrawal.