The world is missing a bright light this week with the passing of Dr. Stephen Covey. Although what he said might not have been that different from what others before him have written, he put his concepts in such a way that the light came on with me again and again and again. I love the way he expressed the basic human principles of how to live a more effective life, and rarely does a day pass that I don’t think of one or more of Covey’s ideas.

Today the emotional bank account is on my mind. I’ve thought about this so many times that I don’t even have to look it up to get it right. In fact, my husband and I have talked about it and practiced it on numerous occasions. Basically, it works like this. Just like when you have a bank account in a brick and mortar bank, you have to make deposits. Otherwise, when you make withdrawals, there won’t be anything to withdraw, and you’ll be in the red…overdrawn.

According to Covey, the same system of deposits and withdrawals works in human relationships. The deposits come in the form of kindnesses, hugs, compliments, spending time with someone, remembering someone’s birthday, preparing a special meal, weeding a garden, and so forth. Even saying, “I’m sorry,” can be a deposit as long as it’s sincere. You get the picture.

What you want to do is build up your emotional bank account with constant deposits so that when you make that withdrawal, you’re covered. One of these days you’re going to forget someone’s anniversary, birthday, or little league game. Yes, this principle applies to children too. When the inevitable withdrawal occurs, the forgotten (offended, hurt, upset) person will hopefully remember the many deposits you’ve made and cut you some slack.

My husband who doesn’t care anything about psychology soon bought into Covey’s idea(s). When I was working full-time, I spent some days in Sumter, some in Bishopville, and some in Camden. On more than one occasion, he forgot my Camden days and my lunch availability, and he’d have lunch with a buddy, one of his children, or his mother. This, by the way, might be well into a semester…say, like March. Enough time had gone by for him to have become familiar with my schedule.  

But no, time after time, I’d hear, “Oh, I forgot you were working in Camden today. I can never get your schedule straight.”

“Oh, don’t worry about it. You’ve made plenty of deposits lately.” I’d say.

And he had. And he still does. And so do I. Why? Because the relationship is important to us, and we know beyond the shadow of a doubt that sooner or later, one of us is going to make a withdrawal. Instead of getting bent out of shape about it and squabbling, we chat a moment or two about our emotional bank account and start thinking of deposits we can make. Last night I prepared one of his favorite meals, and this morning he worked like a Trojan in the yard. It looks great, and it makes me happy to come home to a neat, freshly mown yard.

He’s in the black,, and I hope I am too. Just in case, I think I might make an unexpected deposit and get ahead of the game. While this might sound like bribery or manipulation, it’s not. There have many times when I’ve been hurt or angry, but after looking at the other person’s deposits in our account, I almost always realized that I was probably overreacting.

Why not try it out and see if it works before ditching the idea?