My coaching training has taught me that the quality of our relationships affects our health and wellbeing more than many of us realise. A dysfunctional relationship with a partner, friend, family member or colleague can harm not only our mental health, but our physical health too, so it pays to work on maintaining healthy relationships. A really helpful way to do that is to look at relationships as emotional bank accounts. As with a financial bank account, you can make deposits and withdrawals into an emotional bank account, but with actions instead of money. The deposits are made with affirming actions such as kindness, consideration and honesty. The withdrawals are leaning on the other (metaphorically), being discourteous, forgetting a birthday or anniversary, etc. If you take out more than you put in, you go overdrawn and that’s when you feel as though you are walking through a minefield.
So what can you do to put credits into your joint emotional bank accounts? In his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey suggests the following six actions:
- Understand the other’s needs - see things from their perspective and work out what they would appreciate.
- Pay attention to the little things, they really do count - it could be taking your significant other tea in bed in the morning, giving your child your full attention, touching base with a friend, hugging an elderly relative or showing gratitude to a colleague.
- Keep commitments - if you say you are going to do something, do it, otherwise you risk losing the trust of others and withdrawing from the emotional bank account instead of depositing into it.
- Clarify expectations - don’t leave others to guess what you expect of them and vice versa, talk, be clear and be kind.
- Show integrity - Stephen Covey describes integrity as “conforming reality to our words - in other words keeping promises and fulfilling expectations. This requires an integrated character, a oneness, primarily with self, but also with life.”
- Apologise when you make a withdrawal - acknowledge it, apologise sincerely and avoid doing it again if you can. Actions speak louder than words.
Give before you expect to receive. Your own behaviour can set an example to those around you to follow in how they relate to you and to others, so your ripples of influence can spread far and wide. I can highly recommend reading Stephen Covey’s book. It is a classic that still holds true today and can help you reach your potential, not just in your relationships, but in other areas of your life as well.