ARTICLE: Emotional Bank Accounts

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“A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.” – Walter Winchell

emotional bank accountFor most us the ability to live a wonderful life is dramatically enhanced when we can get the balance right in several important areas.

* We want to do work that is meaningful and satisfying (contribution and reward)
* We want to have fun and take part in activities that interest us (recreation and adventure)
* We want to live comfortably within our means (prosperity and security)
* We want to be fit and healthy (wellbeing)
* We want to know that we are growing as individuals (knowledge / skills / wisdom / spirituality)

But perhaps one of the most significant and yet tricky to master areas is in the quality of the relationships we have with other people. Whether we consciously realise it or not the desire to make strong connections with others plays a huge part in determining our overall satisfaction with life.

Relationships, particularly with those closest to us can be very complex, but when it comes to understanding how to enhance that positive feeling of connectedness there is only one simple rule:

Always put in more than you take out!

If you were to imagine that everyone you know is bank and that you hold an account with each of them (similar to a normal bank account but where the concept of money is replaced by emotions) then it becomes a lot more apparent as to how the health of your relationships is dependant on your account balances.

The people in your life keep a constant unconscious tally of the emotional deposits and withdrawals you have been making to your account with them, and their estimation of you is reflected back accordingly. Of course, they also have an account with you too and you are reflecting their balance back to them (either directly or in more subtle ways!!).

As with any account, if you have been regularly depositing positive emotional credits, or perhaps you have made massive lump sum deposits in the past, then your relationship with the account provider can comfortably withstand the odd emotional withdrawal. They are likely to overlook the occasional indiscretion, because of your otherwise buoyant credit history.

However, if too much is taken out, either through lots of little debits or by one large withdrawal, then the account provider can start to get a bit nervous about continuing to provide their services. Depending on the track record of the relationship and the willingness of that person to forgive your debits, they may give you an overdraft facility (usually with a small interest charge), but it is important to remember that you are now living beyond your means and need to find a way of bringing the account back into the black.

If you stay overdrawn for too long then what may have once been a pretty healthy account can easily be suspended or even closed down for good!!

So what kind of behaviours constitutes emotional deposits and withdrawals?

DEPOSITS

* Keeping your word
* Being a trusted confidant
* Paying genuine compliments
* Acknowledging their successes
* Encouraging and supporting them to realise their potential
* Listening and taking an interest
* Compassionately telling the truth – even if it’s hard to take
* Apologising when you’re wrong
* Being thoughtful

WITHDRAWALS

* Lying
* Breaking your promises
* Taking your frustrations out on them
* Being Disrespectful
* Publicly judging them
* Talking behind their back
* Not recognising when something is important to them
* Not inconveniencing yourself to help them out
* Lack of contact
* Having an affair with their spouse!!

The best way I know of to give your emotion bank accounts a new lease of life is simply to be aware of your balances and to consciously seek opportunities to make deposits whenever you can.

Obviously, your intention for building up credit in any particular account should be because of the importance and value you place on the relationship. Any relationship will inevitably suffer if you see your credits as a safety net “just in case” you have to do the dirty on them later!!

So here is a radical idea to get started. How about letting the people you care about actually know that you care about them!! You probably already do this with your closest family and friends (and if you don’t, would now be a good time to start?), but who else do you value (other friends, colleagues, members of your wider community, etc)?

Not telling someone that they are important to you when they are is the relationship equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot. At the very least it is a shame. What a wonderful opportunity to strengthen that sense of connectedness for both of you.

You don’t have to go overboard, showering them with gifts or accolades (that could get a little creepy after a while!) but perhaps you could do something simple like dropping it into casual conversation:

“That’s what I love about you John. You always give me a fresh perspective”
“I just want you know how much your support has meant to me over the years”
“I can always rely on you to tell it to me straight, I really value that!”
“I really look forward to seeing you. You’re so much fun to hang out with.”

 

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HOMEWORK
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Make a list of your top ten important relationships and estimate what your emotional bank balance is with each of them. You could do this by giving each one a mark out of ten (10 being “rich beyond my wildest dreams”, and 1 being “I’ll get my coat”!). Equally you might just get a sense or feeling of how you are doing in each one.

Work your way down the list and ask yourself, “What would be the most meaningful deposit I could make in this relationship right now?”

Then make a plan to do each of those things, ensuring that you are clear on how and when you’ll make the deposits.
Take great care. Namaste.

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