Building Relationships Through Emotional Bank Account Deposits

Building Relationships Through Emotional Bank Account Deposits

In Stephen R. Covey’s seminal book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he provides a framework for building productive, interdependent relationships through maintaining a positive balance in other people’s emotional bank accounts. “Interdependent” relationships are formed between two people that are dependent (private victory through Habits 1-3) and realize that together they are better (public victory through Habits 4-6), but neither depends on the other for individual success. This post examines building relationships through emotional bank account deposits in law firms.

Emotional Bank Account Deposits are Cornerstones to Productive Relationships

Dr. Covey suggests the following as effective deposits into emotional bank accounts. I’ve included my thoughts on how these suggestions work best:

  • Understanding the Individual — Authentic listening is one of the best ways to truly understand someone and to communicate you care.

  • Attending to Little Things — Little disagreements, slights, and overlooks tend to kill relationships over time. It’s usually not the big things.

  • Keeping Commitments — By communicating and keeping commitments, you become the kind of person people can rely on. Not keeping commitments - even small ones - trains others not to trust you and to be guarded. Immense relationship power is created when each person can rely completely on the word of the other.

  • Clarifying Expectations — Unclear expectations are the root of many interpersonal disputes. This is particularly true when one person in the relationship has an unspoken expectation that is assumed, rather than communicated. Uncovering those assumed expectations and getting clarity leads to significant emotional deposits.

  • Showing Personal Integrity — Personal integrity is fundamental to establishing trust in a relationship. As Dr. Covey explained, “Integrity is conforming reality to our words — in other words, keeping promises and fulfilling expectations.” See 3 Steps to Build Integrity in the Workplace for a deeper discussion of how this principle applies at work.

  • Apologizing Sincerely when You Make a Withdrawal — We all make mistakes. Apologizing to the individual when one happens and making the apology with sincerity can be healing to a relationship as well as demonstrate that you understand the other person.

Challenge — Applying Building Relationships Through Emotional Bank Account Deposits Principle

What: According to Dr. Covey, positive emotional bank account balances between two dependent people lead to fruitful relationships.

Why: As a team leader, your success largely is dependent on your ability to form strong, trusting relationships with your teammates, e.g., a high performing team. As a business leader, your ability to replicate this principle throughout your organization will have transformative results and give your business a significant competitive advantage. See our post on 5 Building Blocks for a Strong Law Firm Culture for a broader discussion of culture versus strategy.

Apply: Choose a key relationship where you believe your emotional bank account balance to be low or even negative, and consciously make deposits into the account for the next 14 days. How has the relationship changed? What caused the low balance in the first place? What steps can you take in the future to ensure a more positive balance and as a consequence, stronger relationship?

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I hope you have found this blog post helpful and welcome comments from readers.  


In addition to Thriving Attorney, Darin M. Klemchuk is founder of Klemchuk LLP, a litigation, intellectual property, and transactional law firm located in Dallas, Texas.  He also co-founded Project K, a charity devoted to changing the world one random act of kindness at a time.  Click to read more about Darin Klemchuk's practice as an intellectual property lawyer.

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