Friday, June 1, 2012

Fill Up Your Piggy Banks!

There is a concept that I read in a Stephen Covey book that I thought was so profound in the basic way it explained establishing relationships. Each person in your life has an emotional bank account with you. Envision a line of piggy banks, one for each family member, friend, co-worker and others. With each positive action, kind word or gesture, you are making a deposit of goodwill into that piggy bank. However, for each time you don’t follow-through on a promise, you strike out in anger or speak negatively or rudely, you are making a withdrawal from that account.

Now, anyone that knows anything about money or math knows that you can’t make a $50 withdrawal from an account with a $5 balance.

The key to successful relationships in any realm (marriage, family, work, friendship) is to have a healthy and growing balance without to many large withdrawals. It’s true that none of us are perfect and a few withdrawals are inevitable. However, we should be quick to try to replenish that account as soon as possible.

Here is what irks me: people who have a negative balance or who just have never bothered to put anything into your bank but feel entitled to make large demands. Think of the professional athlete whose father left years ago, but who shows up after the multi-million dollar contract and wants to ‘reestablish the relationship.’ Maybe it’s the sibling who has a bad habit of selfishly taking time after time and lashes out in anger when you are finally emotionally or financially tapped out.

The amount of goodwill in that piggy bank far outweighs basic ‘roles.’ The fact that the person with the negative balance is a family member or friend does nothing to add to that bank balance. The relationship role means nothing if, over time, there have been too many withdrawals.

Likewise, length of time has nothing to do with the balance of that account. Recently, a co-worker was passed over for a promotion. She was angry and thought being on that job for over five years should have been enough. Adding insult to injury, the person who was promoted had been there for less than two years.

However, if she had looked a little deeper, the answer to the promotion would have become apparent. One stayed late and accepted extra assignments. One routinely came in late and took long lunches. One actively helped her co-workers, one would respond to request for help with “that’s not my job.” Basically, the one who got the job had a full piggy bank and the other’s was virtually empty.

Think of your rows of piggy banks? Which ones have a healthy balance and which ones need more of your attention?

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