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Emotional Bank Account
by S. Hein

The idea of an "Emotional Bank Account" or "EBA" is one I find very helpful. Stephen Covey is credited with making the term popular. I have copied a few articles from the Net which summarize Covey's ideas about the EBA. I also want to add a couple of my own ideas.

First, I would place more emphasis on helping someone feel cared about. Depending on the relationship, for example if it is a working relationship or a romantic one, you might actually ask the other person how much they feel cared about by you and what helps them feel cared about and what would help them feel more cared about. Just asking will show that you care enough to ask, and it will make a deposit into their EBA. I recommend using the zero to ten scale when asking how much they feel cared about -

I would also recommend you ask how much they feel understood by you. Here is more on the idea of helping someone feel understood.

You can do this for several of the important emotional needs. And here is more on using the zero to ten scale.

Covey talks about the importance of clarifying expectations. I think he is mainly talking about a work relationship or some kind of relationship where one person is more of an authority figure. Personally, I really don't think I would want my partner to tell me what she "expected" of me. Nor would I want to tell her what I "expected" of her. We are both very sensitive and I believe we would both feel somewhat offended and perhaps even threatened if we were to say it that way. On the other hand, I agree that it can be very frustrating to try to read someone's mind, as one of the articles below points out. What I would recommend instead of talking about what we "expect" of someone, is to clearly and directly communicate our feelings and our emotional needs.

In any case, below you will find more writing about the concept of an emotional bank account.

S. Hein

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Emotional Bank Account - By Mirjam Busch & Rudolf Jarosewitsch

Paradigms of Interdependence - July 3, 1997

The Emotional Bank Account - By: Stanley E. Hibbs, Ph.D.

Building an Emotional Bank Account with Your Employees

From LifeTrainingOnline.com

My mother and my EBA - S. Hein


Here is something Covey says about trust and EBA's

If you have lost someone's trust....

Examine your Emotional Bank Account with this person; it’s most likely strained because of withdrawals. Make a commitment to start making deposits that matter most to that person, and do it. Little by little, even with small deposits, you will find that the account will grow. It may take time. But over time you will find the cumulative effect of the deposits.

Covey also says "When you make consistent deposits, out of your integrity and out of your empathy.." then, "little by little you can restore trust."

I would add that it will help to think of all the human emotional needs, such as acceptance, appreciation, understanding, so you can consciously try to make small deposits in each area. They all go into the EBA and strengthen it.

Emotional Bank Account - By Mirjam Busch & Rudolf Jarosewitsch

When you are kind, honest, caring and friendly to another person, you make deposits on an Emotional Bank Account. However, if you are unkind, disrespectful, uncaring and mean, you draw from this account.

Stephen Covey (The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) uses the metaphor of Emotional Bank Account to describe "the amount of trust that’s been built up in a relationship" (p. 188). Trust is needed for a relationship to thrive. Without trust, we may manage to accommodate and endure another person, however, it cannot be mutually satisfying in the long run.

It is easy to take another person, a spouse or friend, a relative or anyone we deal with, for granted. Yet, the level of good will that exists in the relationship determines the well-being and ease we feel. It provides the foundation we can build on.

We don’t need money to make a deposit on the Emotional Bank Account of any relationship, and won’t feel richer if we withdraw from it. Nevertheless, it is so easy to waste and erode the level of trust by being thoughtless and critical.

Imagine, a kind word, a compliment, a smile, all add up; while putting down or blaming someone takes away.

When we have a comfortable wealth on our emotional bank account, the relationship is stable so that we can afford to have disagreements or arguments, without immediately seeing red and/or throwing the baby out with the bath-water. Conflicts can be resolved. But when our account is low or even overdrawn, the relationship is in danger. We can’t afford any more withdrawals and need to be mindful to make deposits again, so it can be salvaged and survive.

Sometimes couples wait until it is almost too late before they reach out for support. The sooner downward spiraling patterns can be identified and reversed, the easier it is to regain the trust and good will that provides the basis for any relationship to survive and thrive.

In line with this metaphor is the observation that Michaela Gloeckler shared at a recent conference: Appreciation nurtures our energy body, while criticism drains it.

Just notice what happens to you when you express appreciation. And how do you feel when you are critical? Try to spend a few hours just being appreciative with everyone around you. What happens to your energy level, to your life forces?

Stephen Covey describes 6 major ways of making deposits on the Emotional Bank Account: understanding the individual; attending to little things; keeping commitments; clarifying expectations; showing personal integrity; and apologizing sincerely when you make a "withdrawal".

Often we are stuck in our own way of thinking and look at the world outside in the same way. To understand the individual means to consider the difference and to cultivate a genuine interest. Do we ask questions with an open mind and heart?

The love and care we feel for another person is expressed in little things, small gestures, courtesies. It is important not to underestimate those. When we consciously set the intention "to be kind" on a daily basis, then our actions are influenced by that. What are the aspirations and intentions that guide us?

We need to be careful when we make commitments. Not to keep them is a major withdrawal from our emotional bank account. What are we really able and willing to commit ourselves to?

Unclear expectations can undermine our communication and trust. "The cause of almost all relationship difficulties is rooted in conflicting or ambiguous expectations around roles and goals." (Covey, p.194) What are our expectations? Do we communicate them with each other?

We show personal integrity when we "walk our talk". We also manifest it by refraining from talking badly about someone else, by being "loyal to those who are not present" (ibid. p. 196).

When we make a mistake and someone else gets hurt, it is important to sincerely apologize, from the heart. This is hard to do for people with little inner security. Covey quotes Leo Roskin saying: "It is the weak who are cruel. Softness can only be expected from the strong." (ibid. p.198)

As we become more loving with ourselves, it is easier to be loving with others. This process can be supported by both partners in an intimate relationship.

We often suggest to couples we work with to cultivate good will by taking time for each other, focusing on what is good in the relationship, and sharing at least one praise a day with each other. It doesn’t have to be big. It may be something that you got used to and took for granted. Notice! Be thankful!

Of course, we can also offer a smile, a kind gesture, a friendly comment to people we work with, to our neighbours, the man/woman in the shop. Just notice how it makes you feel, and observe how you become more and more wealthy on all your emotional bank accounts.

Copyright 8/2000 by Rumijabu | Originally published in Southshore Beacon #120, August 2000

The Emotional Bank Account - By: Stanley E. Hibbs, Ph.D.

Is your family life as pleasant and fulfilling as it could be? If not, do not despair because there are things you can do to improve the quality of your family relationships. In his landmark book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families, Steven Covey introduces us to the concept of the emotional bank account. If a relationship is wounded, we have probably made too many withdrawals and not enough deposits into that person s account. We make deposits into his/her account by praise, positive attention, sincere apologies, or acts of service. Examples of withdrawals are such things as criticism, sarcasm, ignoring, or failing to keep promises.

Even with the people we love the most, our bank account is usually seriously overdrawn. The only solution is to regularly make deposits while avoiding withdrawals. This takes courage and considerable self-discipline. After all, you may believe that their account with you is seriously overdrawn, and you may resent having to be the one to change. However, change must start somewhere, so it might as well start with you.

It might help you to think of these deposits as long-term investments. You probably will not see results immediately. In fact, your loved ones might think there is something wrong with you. Nevertheless, if you persist, you will be rewarded many times over. It s a small price to pay for a happier family live.

About Stanley E. Hibbs...

Stanley E. Hibbs, Ph.D., is a therapist based in Dunwoody, GA, specializing in organizational/life management, performance enhancement, addiction issues, adolescent issues, marriage/couples issues, depression, phobias, and more.

Paradigms of Interdependence - July 3, 1997

Victories in our personal development precede our public victories. Independence is the foundation of interdependence.

The most important ingredient we put into any relationship is not what we say or do, but who we are. If our words and actions come from superficial human relations techniques (the Personality Ethic) rather than from our inner core (the Character Ethic), others will sense that duplicity.

Interdependence opens worlds of possibilities for deep, meaningful associations, greater productivity, service, contribution and growth. It also exposes us to greater pain.

In order to receive the benefits of interdependence, we need to create and care for the relationships that are the source of the benefits.

The Emotional Bank Account is a metaphor describing relationships and the P/PC (Production versus building Production Capacity) balance for interdependence. It describes how trust is built on a relationship.

Positive behaviors are deposits building a reserve. Negative behaviors are withdrawals. A high reserve balance results in higher tolerance for our mistakes and more open communication.

There are six major deposits we can make to the emotional bank account:

Understanding the individual. An individual's values determine what actions will result in a deposit or a withdrawal for that individual. To build a relationship, you must learn what is important to the other person and make it as important to you as the other person is to you. Understand others deeply as individuals and then treat them in terms of that understanding.

Attend to the little things, which are the big things in relationships.

Keep commitments. Breaking a promise is a major withdrawal.

Clarify expectations. The cause of almost all relationship difficulties is rooted in ambiguous, conflicting expectations around roles and goals. Making an investment of time and effort up front saves time, effort and a major withdrawal later.

Show personal integrity. A lack of integrity can undermine almost any effort to create a high trust reserve. Honesty requires conforming our words to reality. Integrity requires conforming reality to our words, keeping promises and fulfilling expectations.
The key to the many is the one, especially the one that tests the patience and good humor of the many. How you treat the one reveals how you regard the many, because everyone is ultimately a one.

Apologize sincerely when you make a withdrawal. Sincere apologies are deposits, but repeated apologies are interpreted as insincere, resulting in withdrawals.

The Laws of Love and the Laws of Life:

In giving unconditional love, we help others feel secure, safe and validated, which gives them the emotional security to do the same for others. Making conditions for our approval creates defensiveness and insecurity, breaking down the bonds of interdependence.

Dag Hammerskjold, past Secretary General of the United Nations, said, "It is more noble to give yourself completely to one individual, than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses." It is at the one-on-one level that we live the primary laws of love and life.

Problems should be recognized as PC opportunities, a chance to build up emotional bank accounts. These are opportunities to deeply understand and help others, which applies to all personal relationships in the family, with workers and with customers.

The paradigm of the emotional bank account is the foundation of the habits of public victory required to avoid using personality techniques and to establish character ethics as the natural outgrowth of a secure, giving character.


Imagine the concept of an emotional bank account in your relationship. Of course it doesn't actually exist in any physical sense, but it helps to understand why some issues that appear to be small become so large.

Brandon has $12 in his bank account, and writes a $25 cheque. Not only would his cheque bounce, but his bank would penalize him just short of asking for his first born child. His little $25 cheque creates a penalty of approximately $20 simply because there were not enough deposits to cover it.

Negative comments, coming home late, or not asking for your partner's input regarding an important decision may seem like small things but can certainly disintegrate the peace and start a battle when the emotional bank account between a couple is low. Little mistakes and other relatively minor bumps in the road to harmony for couples can be overcome much more easily when the account is full. The account is full when both partners feel connected, supported, loved, and appreciated.

Deposits are made when sweet things are done for each other. When we forgive someone easily and quickly. When we compromised or gave up what we wanted so our partner could have something they wanted. Deposits are made when we share intimacy and sincere affection and appreciation.

When the account is low, chances are very few deposits have been made. There is a tension in the relationship, similar to when you're broke and not sure where any new money might come from. Little things become big things and our patience grows thin.

Criticism, blame, or displays of disrespect are common withdrawals. When we fail to show acceptance, or consideration, or when we disregard our partner's needs and interests, we make withdrawals. When he fails to call, when she points out his weaknesses, when he makes fun of her in public, withdrawals are made.

When couples fight often, their emotional accounts are typically low. Little things set them off. By putting effort into making more deposits and strengthening the account, couples have more patience, become more willing to compromise, and forgive each other more easily. If, as a couple, you are experiencing conflict on a regular basis and seemingly little problems are constantly becoming big problems, it is time to look at the ratio of deposits to withdrawals.

This is not about keeping a ledger. The objective is not to destroy the spontaneity and friendliness of your actions. Don't try to keep a balance sheet. Just strive to make more and more daily deposits. Avoid making excuses or rationalizing inconsiderate or hostile actions by telling yourself you can afford a few withdrawals. Acknowledge withdrawals as such when you make one, and genuinely apologize.

Remember, it is irrelevant if you think the account is strong if your partner doesn't feel the same way.

There's no master account because each of us have our own perception. And there's no real way of reaching a safe balance. You don't become a billionaire to where your relationship can withstand any withdrawal. Things like adultery or abuse can wipe out years of savings and leave your emotional account bankrupt.

Have you been helpful lately?

If so, you're making deposits, and keep up the good work!

Have you been lazy?
or critical lately?

If so, it's time to stop bleeding the account and begin making more deposits. Thank each other for the deposits. Acknowledge when you or your partner has made a withdrawal.

Keep no notes, hold no mental list. Just commit to making more and more deposits and creating a strong emotional connection between you. Share why you love each other and regularly acknowledge the contribution your partner is to your life. Make it fun if you can. Do it to be silly, to be a friend, or to be a caring partner.

Remember, underneath most conflict between couples there is someone who isn't feeling loved enough, respected, appreciated, understood, or listened to. You have the ability to avoid arguing about specifics and approach the real problem. The conflicts that arise from a low account means there are significant deficiencies in one or more of these areas, and by talking with your partner, you will know specifically where your efforts need to be directed.

Building an Emotional Bank Account with Your Employees

Gulf Breeze, FL (January 2006)--Leaders, do your employees say communication could be better? Would they like more input into corporate decisions? Do they wish their contributions were more appreciated? If so, consider focusing more attention on what Quint Studer, CEO of Studer Group, calls "building an emotional bank account" with your employees. Not only is it the right thing to do, it's good insurance for the future. Eventually, your employees will feel let down--so you must ensure there's enough emotional capital in the account for that metaphorical rainy day.

"Most leaders truly want to do the right thing," asserts Studer, author of Hardwiring Excellence: Purpose, Worthwhile Work, Making a Difference (Fire Starter Publishing, 2004, ISBN: 0-9749986-0-5, $28.00). "They want positive, productive, trust-based relationships with their people. But let's face it: perfection doesn't exist in leaders or in companies. You put in enough 'deposits' so that when the inevitable 'withdrawals' are made--let's say you forget to say thank you or you have to institute pay cuts--there's enough goodwill in the account to salvage those relationships."

Withdrawals, Studer points out, are usually weightier than deposits--so great leaders do everything they can to make more of the latter. For instance:

Diagnose employee satisfaction--and act on the results. Use a proven, respected assessment tool to figure out where your problems lie. Then, commit to solving them. "One of the biggest issues we see in our work with clients is that people say, 'Well, they measured our satisfaction but nobody responded to what we said,'" says Studer. "We advise organizations to be open about the results and have everyone to vote on the top three issues. Eventually, you should address them all, but start with the top three."

Harvest best practices. If assessments reveal that a high number of employees cite "poor communication" as a problem, dig deeper. You may find that one department manager got great communication scores. Find out what she is doing right and reward her. Then, work to apply her communication practices throughout the organization. "Your company doesn't really have a problem with poor communication, just inconsistent communication," says Studer. "Take what people are doing right and expand it. It's much more effective than trying to start from scratch--and it builds goodwill."

Announce that you're making changes. Accept skepticism, but not cynicism. "Tell employees specifically what you are going to fix," says Studer. "Naturally, they will be skeptical. You can even tell them that skepticism is fine, even expected, but ask that they try not to be cynical. If they start rolling their eyes and say, 'Oh, we've heard all that before,' tell them, 'Look, you can be part of the problem or you can be open to change and see good things start to happen.'"

Go for "quick wins" to establish credibility. A quick win is an action that shows employees you really are committed to meeting their needs. If you are trying to establish an environment of fairness, for instance, don't "pull rank" as a senior leader and cut in line. Don't insist on having the parking spot nearest the door. (Not only will it send a signal that you're no more important than anyone else, the longer parking lot trek gives you the opportunity to talk to employees and stay on top of what's going on in your company.) Perhaps your quick win might take the form of getting a department a piece of equipment that employees have requested for years, or finally dealing with a low performer who's been dragging everyone down.

Sometimes you won't know what your quick win is until the moment it presents itself. And seemingly small gestures can have a big impact. In Hardwiring Excellence, Studer tells a story about his first day as administrator at a new hospital. He asked a nurse how he could make her job better, and she said she was frightened walking to her car at night because of the tall bushes by the parking lot. While she worked that day, Studer got the bushes trimmed and put up a small fence. It made the nurse feel safe and, more to the point, valued as an employee and as a person.

"Round" relentlessly. Studer is a huge proponent of leadership "rounding," a process similar to the one doctors use to check on their patients. In the business world, a CEO, VP, or department manager "makes the rounds" daily to check on the status of his or her employees. "Basically, you take an hour a day to touch base with employees, make a personal connection, recognize successes, find out what's going well, and determine what improvements can be made," says Studer. "And of course, you fix any problems that come up. Rounding is the heart and soul of building the emotional bank account, because it shows employees day in and day out that you care."

Get rid of low performers. Make no mistake: your employees don't want to work with low performers. Nothing makes employees as discouraged and resentful as having to co-exist with people who don't pull their own weight. In fact, low performers usually drive high performers right out the door. "Turning a blind eye to these people quickly drains the emotional bank account you're trying to build up with your good employees," says Studer. "However hard it may seem, you must move these people up or out."

Avoid creating a "We/They" culture. The temptation to get on your employees' good side by saying (for instance), "Well, I fought for the budget increase but this is all I could get," can be huge. It may feel easier or more comfortable at the moment, but ultimately you're dividing the staff instead of uniting them. Of course, few leaders deliberately foster a "We/They" mentality, but it can be easy to do subconsciously. "Interestingly, the other side of the coin--'I know you've begged for more money for years and here I took care of it in one afternoon!'--can be equally divisive," adds Studer. "When you solve a big problem overnight, you might be undermining mid-level supervisors who've been working on a problem for a long time. Don't walk around and perform magic."

Be open and truthful with your employees, no matter how difficult it may be. "Let's say you know that part of your organization is going to be outsourced in the next few months, or that there are going to be major cuts in benefits," says Studer. "Even if it doesn't directly affect your team, it certainly impacts them on an emotional level. Once the decision is final, you owe it to your employees to tell them. Don't wait for them to read it in the paper. They will know that you knew all along--and a huge amount of trust will be lost."

In the end, of course, trust is what building a healthy emotional bank account is all about, says Studer.

"When you've always been up front with your employees, and proven every day that you want what's best for them, they'll give you the benefit of the doubt when things don't go their way," he says. "They might not like it, and they may be angry. But they won't feel betrayed to the point of leaving. They'll realize that you've always treated them like adults, with respect and consideration. And that's when you'll truly see the value of the work you've been doing. That emotional capital you've invested will save the relationship--you'll see that it's the very foundation of a healthy company."

About the Author:

Quint Studer, a former hospital president and 20-year health care veteran, is founder and CEO of Studer Group,SM headquartered in Gulf Breeze, FL.
From Six Seconds


This concept is so simple and so real. It simply states that just like a financial bank, we deposit and borrow from people we deal with everyday. The account we use if the one we open with each and everyone we meet and work with.

Simply put, we need to have a minimum deposit and keep filling in the account to make it work. It helps when we have to make withdrawals. The deposits are simple ones, like acknowledging the other, common courtesies, keeping the small promises we make, being sincere in helping, being sincere in owning up to mistakes made and apologizing with intent to repair the damage done and so on. The small stuff. But all this has to be made unconditionally without plans for withdrawals. No strings attached.

When withdrawals occur, like shortness of temper, demands on time and work priorities, abruptness with courtesies, anger mismanaged, and all the roughshod treatment we dish out liberally in a day, the unconditional deposits we have banked allow us to save the relationship from destruction.


From LifeTrainingOnline.com(Slightly condensed)

When it comes to improving and maintaining our relationships with others, Stephen Covey’s metaphor of the Emotional Bank Account is probably one of the most powerful ideas ever created for the development of interpersonal relationships. If you’ve never heard of this, it basically means that anyone with whom we have a relationship with, whether it be our coworkers, family or friends, we maintain a personal “emotional” bank account with them. This account begins on a neutral balance. And just as with any bank account, we can make deposits and withdrawals. However, instead of dealing with units of monetary value, we deal with emotional units.

The emotional units that Covey speaks of are centered around trust. When we make emotional deposits into someone’s bank account, their fondness, trust, and confidence in us grows. And as a result our relationship develops and grows. If we can keep a positive reserve in our relationships, by making regular deposits, there will be greater tolerance for our mistakes and we’ll enjoy open communication with that person. On the contrary, when we make withdrawals and our balance becomes low or even overdrawn, bitterness, mistrust and discord develops. If we are to salvage the relationship, we must make a conscious effort to make regular deposits.

This post will discuss Covey’s six major ways of making deposits into these Emotional Bank Accounts and how we can avoid making withdrawals.

1. Understanding the Individual

In Covey’s book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, one of the seven habits is “Seek first to understand then to be understood”. Truly understanding what others are feeling is not always that easy. We must remove ourselves from our egocentric viewpoint and put ourselves into the minds and shoes of others. I say minds and shoes because we must try to first understand the thought patterns and second walk in their shoes or empathize with them.

Truly understanding someone requires us to wholly and completely concentrate on what the other person is trying to say, not reloading, just waiting to fire off your response

2. Keeping Commitments

Certainly when we break our promises to others, we make major withdrawals from their Emotional Bank Accounts.

3. Clarifying Expectations

There is nothing more frustrating in a relationship than not understanding what is expected of you. Although many of us wish we could be, we are not mind readers.

And because each of us sees life differently and has different backgrounds and life experiences, expecting someone to just “know” is not only unfair but completely unrealistic. It’s important that the person with whom you are dealing with, knows exactly what is expected of them. Doing this will keep them out of the dark and allow them to relate you confidently, knowing that what they are doing is in line with your expectations.


4. Attending to the Little Things

Little courtesies, kind words and warm smiles are at the heart of the little things that brighten up a relationship. It shows recognition and an awareness of others. It’s interesting, but within our relationships, if you want success, it’s the little things that really become the big things.

5. Showing Personal Integrity

Nothing is probably more damaging to a relationship, then a lack of integrity. Being that the Emotional Bank Account is based upon trust, you could essentially be doing all of the previous things, but without trust, it is to no avail. Integrity means wholeness, completeness, or soundness. In this case soundness of moral character. Integrity is the rock-solid foundation upon which all successful relationships are built.

6. Apologizing Sincerely When We Make a Withdrawal

Granted, we are all mortal. We make mistakes. That’s part of life and learning. Knowing when you are wrong and admitting your mistakes prevents the wounds that you’ve caused in others from festering and allows them to heal. When appropriate, sincere apology will keep your relationships accounts in the positive, allowing you to maintain the balance that has been created in your application of all of the previous steps.

From lifetrainingonline.com




Emotionally Bankrupt