Some where in my past I heard the term “emotional bank account.” I think this probably came from a Covey training course. The thought is that when you do something nice or kind for someone else you put coins in your emotional bank account. They hold the purse strings to this account and your deposit is with them. Now when you have a negative interaction with them, say you berate them in a group meeting, if you have enough coins in your bank account they immediately forgive you and assume you just were having a bad day. But then again, if you have taken more withdrawals than you have made deposits you will find that you might go into bankruptcy and the next deposit takes longer to make. For me, I find it helpful to think of this emotional bank account reference during stressful times. I have also found that it helps to keep my account full because when I am under stress I know that the Tasmanian Devil in me can make an appearance. It doesn’t take long to drain my account if I have too many stressful days.
Recently I witnessed one of my colleagues make a huge withdrawal from his emotional bank account. This was painful to see and I was certainly glad to not be on the receiving end. After the meeting I had an opportunity to chat with my colleague. While I did not use the emotional bank account terminology, I did bring up the fact that the interaction I witnessed probably was not productive. While I knew the topics being discussed were stressful and frustrating, letting the frustration impact the interaction in such a negative manner might have damaged the relationship. I’m not sure whether or not our conversation had an impact, but I was happy to see today that the individuals involved seemed to have gotten beyond this negative incident quickly. Whether this recovery was due to having many gold coins in the emotional bank account or if it was just a sign of extreme professional behavior, I will probably never know. In any case, I’m going to keep trying to make my deposits in my many bank accounts, because I know that it could have just as easily been me behaving badly. Hmm, well I’d like to think not so badly.
So when you are under stress, an aggressive deadline, or just plain frustrated, be sure to keep your emotional bank accounts filled to the brim before you take out your frustration on those around you. While I am sure you don’t do this often, it still pays to keep the coffers full. At best this will help your reputation and at worst it will grant you some forgiveness for those times we all have when we just can’t control our emotional reactions to life.