As we begin 2012, I want to spend a little time on the importance of relationships. None of us can succeed on our own. We all need other people to help us along the way. Strong, mutually beneficial relationships are an important key to life and career success.

And that brings me to the idea of emotional bank accounts. I first came across the term when I read Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The best way to build strong relationships is to make regular deposits into the emotional bank accounts you have with the people in your life.

I use a model of customer service with my consulting clients. It begins from the premise that after any interaction your customers R.A.T.E. you:
• R stands for Responsiveness.
• A stands for Assurance.
• T stands for Tangibles.
• E stands for Empathy.

Only one of the four points in the model — tangibles —is what you actually deliver to the people in your life. The other three are the emotional measures by which people judge you. These are at least as important as the tangibles, especially when it comes to building your emotional bank account balance. You have to deliver the tangibles, of course.

You must do what you say you’ll do. If you don’t, you’ll have a negative balance in your emotional bank accounts.

However, you have to pay attention to the other three factors —responsiveness, assurance, and empathy —to really build your balances:

Responsiveness. Ensure that the people in your life see you as someone who is willing to help, someone who understands what needs to be done and is willing to do it.

Assurance. You have to convey trust and confidence, so people believe that you are going to deliver.

Empathy. Others must perceive you as someone who understands, cares about, and pays attention to their needs. You need to be willing to walk a mile in other people’s shoes.

I have found that there are six ways you can make deposits into the emotional bank accounts you have with people important to you.

1) Make a sincere effort to understand. Figure out what’s important to all of the key people in your life, and make it important to you.

2) Pay attention to the little things; because little things are big things in relationships.

3) Keep your commitments. Every time you do what you say you’ll do, you’ll make an emotional bank account deposit. Every time you fail to keep your word, you’ll make a withdrawal.

4) Be clear on what you want and expect. It makes it easier for others to give it to you. And when you take the time to gain clarity on what others want, it’s easier for you to keep your commitments.

5) Be honest. Make sure your words and actions are congruent. Remember what Mark Twain said: “Always tell the truth. That way you don’t have to remember anything.”

6) Apologize when you make a withdrawal. Often, a sincere apology will be enough of a deposit to offset the withdrawal. Be aware though, 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. Successful people build strong relationships with the people in their lives. They do this by making regular deposits to the emotional bank accounts they keep for all of their important relationships. Make 2012 the year you build your balances. Keep them high. In that way, you won’t be overdrawn when you have to make the occasional withdrawal.

  • Bud Bilanich

    Bud Bilanich, The Common Sense Guy, is a success coach, motivational speaker, author and blogger. He is a faculty member at the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver where he teaches courses in Organizational Dynamics and Human Capital Management. Bud has written five books on career and life success, which are the basis of his Common Sense Success System.

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