In 1998 we moved to Belgium for my husband’s work. After the first few weeks of excitement the bloom came off the rose. I couldn’t speak French so I couldn’t get a plumber to come and fix my washer, Three of our five children were attending a Belgium school and when they brought a note home, google translate had not been invented yet. I didn’t know if it had to do with homework, something they were supposed to bring, or if the school would be closed the next day. I carried my groceries through the grocery store because I was bugged I had to pay for a shopping cart. (It was 20 francs, and I later learned the money was refunded when you returned the cart to the stack of carts at the front of the store.) There were dozens of things that continued to immobilize me. By the fifth week I was hit with serious culture shock.
I finally went to bed for three days. I was done, emotionally and physically exhausted, with my husband busy traveling and setting up a new office. My husband was puzzled–he told me, “I don’t understand–we have moved around a lot!”
I had a depleted emotional bank account. Withdrawals had been taken and I finally hit a wall. This is what Stephen R. Covey says is a metaphor that describes the amount of trust that’s been built up in a relationship. You make deposits into an emotional bank account through courtesy, kindness and honesty and keeping commitments. In doing so you build up a reserve with that person.
When my husband finally stopped and did empathic listening–“So what you are saying is, this isn’t like other moves”– I felt understood and I could get out of bed. The problems were still there, but having someone really want to know why I couldn’t function anymore, made all the difference. My emotional bank revived itself with this huge concentrated deposit of time, love and a pure motive of truly understanding why I felt so defeated. His responsiveness and deep listening meant I could get up and face the world again.
I loved teaching about emotional bank accounts as my children got older. Again, the foundational elements are courtesy, kindness, honesty and keeping commitments. When you catch your children doing something right, you can let them know they are building a large reserve in the emotional bank account between you. You are helping them be aware of how important and helpful how they connect with you is.
Next post: Emotional Bank Accounts:Part 2