How to Build and Manage Your Emotional Bank Accounts

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Did anyone ever teach you how to write a check or make a deposit as a part of your education? If so, you were one of the lucky ones. Most of us just bumble along and learn on our own. We all know how wonderful it is to make deposits – after all, deposits allow us to take care of all our needs and wants. Withdrawals are more painful and can sometimes be very much more challenging.

Bank accounts are a really good metaphor for relationships as well. In this context a deposit is as simple as doing something thoughtful that is relevant to the other person. A withdrawal, as you might imagine is that thing you do that pushes someone’s buttons or causes them anxiety.

It’s obvious that in our personal lives we frequently either please or disappoint our spouses, significant others, children, parents etc. In our business lives the same is true with partners, peers, direct reports and others. Think about creating this new way of thinking about your interactions – what might you do to make deposits with your child or your business partner? What difference would this make to how they feel when you make withdrawals by not being on time with a report or showing up late for a school play? You certainly want to have a positive balance in your emotional bank account!

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What follows is an example of how I found a great way to communicate this life lesson to one of my children. The morning after Thanksgiving I got a call from my youngest son, who may prefer to remain nameless in this story. He had left his truck at home and needed a ride home from his girlfriend’s house. His girl had already left for work and so I asked him a question that caught him somewhat off guard – I asked if he made the bed. His answer was “no” (of course not) and so I suggested that he do so before I picked him up and that I’d explain why when he got in the car.

My son is a finance and accounting major at USC and is a very smart young man, so I decided to seize this opportunity as he was captive in my car. What an opportunity to clue him in about relationships in a way that would make sense to him.

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Here is what I shared:

When you stay at the fraternity house on the weekend and your girl is alone on a Saturday night, you are making a withdrawal from her emotional bank account. When you just made the bed though, it was a huge deposit. I am sure she will come home and be totally enamoured with how thoughtful you are.

Your job is to look for those opportunities to make deposits. You will always make plenty of withdrawals without even knowing it.

As he nodded at me, I knew that I made my point.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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