Emotional Bank Accounts

No doubt emotional intelligence is more rare than book smarts, but my experience says it is actually more important in the making of a leader. You just can’t ignore it.
— Jack Welch

Everyone is familiar with the concept of bank accounts. To have money in them is good. To draw too much money out of them is bad. My dad would often remind me of the emotional bank account, especially when I started to make large withdraws without thinking of the initial balance. I only hit the negative a couple of times before I learned it is a bad thing. So let’s take a look at three types of emotional bank accounts.


Starting a New Account:

Every time you meet someone, you are starting a new emotional bank account. Your goal when starting a new account is to add as much to it in as short a time as possible. Here are a couple of ways to do it:

  • Ask good questions.

    • Make these questions about them. Ask about their lives, their interests, and their work.

    • When you show interest in people, you add to their emotional bank account.

  • Be an intentional listener.

    • Practice your eye contact. When you look at someone while they speak, you communicate their importance.

    • Put away your phone while you are having a conversation. For bonus points, put the phone away in front of the person you are talking with at the beginning of the conversation.

  • Use their name.

    • When you are speaking with someone. Try to work their name in. It is the most important word in someone’s vocabulary!


Servicing an Established Account:

We all have friends, family, and coworkers we call friends and acquaintances. Whether you have known them for 2 months or 20 years, their emotional bank account is still open.

  • Re-Establish your connections.

    • Just like with a traditional bank account, there are service fees. These get pulled out every month. If you are not careful, you can overdraft by simply letting a relationship sit.

    • Send someone you haven’t talked to lately a quick text or an email. It will instantly add to their emotional account.

  • Check your account balance.

    • Ask someone “are we doing okay?” or “Is everything good between us?”

    • People won’t naturally give their opinions and feelings until you give them permission. Checking in will give you the status of your account with them.


Reinstating an Overdrawn Account:

It is going to happen. You are going to make one too many withdraws and the person is going to get frustrated or upset. It might happen at home, at work, or with friends. It is important to keep a positive account with someone, but next to impossible to keep it positive all the time. Here are some ways to reinstate your account.

  • Say you are sorry.

    • I’m sorry is a magical phrase. It shows humility. It repairs damage. It fixes a multitude of sins.

    • When you say you are sorry, be genuine. If you are looking to lose that relationship then obviously there is no need to apologize, but if you intend to continue that relationship, you need to mean it.

    • Give specific examples of what you did wrong. Saying sorry is a blanket statement; when you add what you are sorry for, the person knows you mean it.

  • Ask them how you can repair.

    • You might have made a mistake that you are unaware of. In that case, you need to ask them what you have done.

    • When you show interest in their solution, you actually add to their account.

    • Start immediately on the repair. When they see action, they will know you mean it.


Being cognizant of others’ emotional bank accounts is crucial in maintaining strong relationships throughout your professional and personal life. If you are interested in being part of a virtual mastermind group that dives into the intentionality of relationships through the book “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect”. Click below to contact us. We have a limited number of spots available on a first come, first serve basis.