Six Ways to Give Less and Get More

Jul 22, 2011   //   by admin   //   A Slice of Lemon, Articles  //  1 Comment

If you want any relationship to remain healthy and positive, you have to keep your ’emotional bank account’ in credit.

And, in the end, the love you take
Is equal to the love you make.

[The Beatles, ‘The End’ – Abbey Road]

(1199 words – approx 7-10 mins to read)  

Just imagine that – being able to give less to others and yet get more back from them in return!

Let’s set aside the obvious possibility of duplicity and sneakiness, fooling someone else into giving you a lot in return for a little, and focus on remaining ethical and positive.

“Even if it is possible to do completely ethically, surely there must be a catch?” you’d say, sceptically…

And you’d be right. There is indeed a small catch and it’s all to do with HOW you give to others and what you’re expecting in return. It’s just like the world of financial investments – you can waste a lot on people or schemes that ultimately go nowhere or, with a little more care and attention you can invest just the right amount in the right place at the right time and reap large rewards.

Steven Covey, author of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, came up with a powerfully simple analogy – the ’emotional bank account’ or EBA (to save me from typing it out every time!) that is a reflection of the amount of trust that person has for you and faith they have in you.

The basic idea is this:

  • Every time we interact with someone for the first time, we open an EBA.
  • Every time we interact with them after that we either make deposits into that account, or withdrawals from that account.

With me so far? Good – let’s keep going…

  • To make a deposit into that EBA, the interaction has to be positive FROM THEIR POINT OF VIEW.
  • If the interaction is negative FROM THEIR POINT OF VIEW, we make a withdrawal.
  • In order for a relationship to function properly, we need to keep the EBA in credit.

Still with me? You may have wanted to ponder the bit about ‘FROM THEIR POINT OF VIEW’, but if you stop to think about it, as the holder of the EBA, THEY get to decide what’s a deposit and what’s a withdrawal – we don’t. Like differing countries around the world, each person has their own ’emotional currency’ which we need to understand because deposits only count if they’re made in that currency.

OK, just a few more key points to cover:

  • Just like a real bank account (in a good economy!), deposits earn interest – the larger the deposit, the larger the interest earned.
  • Just like a real bank account, overdrafts also incur interest.
  • There are also penalties for unexpectedly going ‘into the red’.
  • Every EBA has an ‘overdraft limit’ beyond which no more withdrawals will be possible without a seriously large deposit first being made. Or they might just decide to close the account, leaving you permanently overdrawn with them.

If we put all this together, it means that you really do get to take more out than you put in, i.e. get more from the relationship than you give to it, but ONLY IF YOU STAY IN CREDIT! The moment you go overdrawn, the situation reverses and if you stay overdrawn you’ll need to put a lot more in than you can take out.

Here, then, are six basic principles for staying in credit:

  1. Understand the individual

    Make every effort to get to grips with the ‘currency of care’* of every person you deal with, whether that’s in your personal or professional life. You’ll need to make an effort to convert your normal currency to theirs if that relationship it at all important to you, remembering that every investment you make will earn interest.

  2. Keep commitments:

    It’s almost universally true that breaking any commitment, promise or word given is the equivalent of a big withdrawal from that EBA. So make commitments clearly, and if you’re making something more fluid that a full commitment, be clear about that too. Which brings us on to…

  3. Clarify expectations:

    It’s vital to any relationship that communication is clearly understood by everyone involved. This is especially important if you’re asking or expecting something of someone. Be concise and precise about what you want or need and any timings involved too, and then make sure the other person (or people) have the same understanding of the situation as you do.

  4. Attend to the little things:

    Just as with our finances, we tend to take notice of big purchases but let the little things go by. But it’s the little things, those small expenses here and there that, if we’re not paying attention, can add up quickly to something significant. Many personal and business relationships break down because of the accumulation of arguments, niggles, conflicts, upsets and other things that were never really resolved or were ignored or left. Each problem on its own may be quite small, but when you add them up over time the total effect can be much larger than one really big problem. Eventually it may just take one more small withdrawal to hit the overdraft limit and the relationship falls apart.
    Instead, when we do take care of the little things, each is a small deposit into the EBA and over time those small investments add up to a sizeable balance, earning emotional interest, so as and when we do make a withdrawal, for example we have an argument or call in a favour, the cost is easily covered and there’s still a healthy balance left.

  5. Show true personal integrity:

    If something has ‘integrity’ then we’re meaning that it’s ‘whole, consistent and complete’, not broken, fractured or fragmented. Personal integrity then is all about consistency, completeness, openness and honesty in everything we do, in line with a positive set of attitudes and values – it’s the conceptual opposite of hypocrisy. In the context of your EBAs with people, this simply means we need to be open, honest and consistent in our dealings with that person, applying the same standards to all and to ourselves, and therefore not manipulative, sneaky, duplicitous or hypocritical. Integrity makes deposits whilst hypocrisy, even in the most subtle or smallest doses, makes large withdrawals.

  6. Apologise sincerely (when making a withdrawal):

    Although the best practise is to make as few withdrawals as possible, we first need to become aware of when we are making one. It helps if we imagine that you can’t have a truly neutral interaction with anyone – they’re either a deposit or withdrawal. When we are making a withdrawal, intentional or not, an apology lets them know we’re aware of what we’re doing and actually minimises the interest or other penalties we might otherwise incur for making the withdrawal. If it’s an open and honest apology you might even find that the apology itself counts as a small deposit!

So, there you have it – six simple ways to get more than you give!

Oh, there’s one more thing though. As well as you opening an EBA with them, they also have one with you! So for a truly positive and worthwhile connection, BOTH balances need to stay in the black, otherwise one of you is tolerating an overdraft and the relationship quickly becomes unbalanced and dysfunctional.

Remember that to keep all your relationships healthy and positive, you have to keep your ‘emotional bank accounts’ in credit.

Until next time,


* The ‘currency of care’ is basically the combination of words and actions that let someone know they are important to you – that you care about them. There are some universal elements, like courtesy, equity, friendliness, respect, honesty and appreciation. There are also subtler elements that may be more unique to that individual, which may depend on personality type, motivation and working styles, communication preferences, and even personal background and culture. 

1 Comment

  • An excellent read Steve again and certainly flagged up some things in my business that need a little attention. Thanks

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