I recently took the full series of courses from Stephen Covey and his habits of highly effective people. I’m not a patient person who enjoys long stints in a classroom, meeting or even the dinner table. I often get up and wander around, doodle or make my grocery list just to pass the time. Having said that, there were some good points I could take from the lecture series – both personally and professionally.
One of those areas was the idea of “emotional deposits and withdrawals.” This wasn’t a new idea, as I previously knew this as filling your cup up until it flows over into someone’s cup, thus paying it forward. Now, I want to suggest these are “absolutes” of behavior and acceptability. I vow to not accept withdrawals and to actively and conscientiously “fill ‘er up” for the people in my life whom I love and respect.
Let me break this down:
- Understanding the Individual— This is the first “deposit” Covey presents. It means to really seek to understand another person. This doesn’t mean agreeing or changing your morals and norms to fit inside their box. What it means is to take the time to actively listen with empathy and without interrupting.It means not assuming you’ve got them all figured out. Recently I asked my team at work to take the quiz for “Love Languages.” Why? Because I honestly and sincerely want to know what speaks to them. Me, if I’m doing a good job, please don’t hand me a certificate. It’s not my language. Instead, do something kind for me or with me, it’s my cup-filler.
- Attending to the Little Things—The second deposit points out the little kindnesses and courtesies in life. Don’t let an opportunity to say “thank you” or “good job” pass – and say it with sincerity. I’ll be honest, because “words of affirmation” isn’t my love language, I often overlook this deposit. This one goes beyond common courtesy to the character of the person who attends to these little things. It’s like the person who asks, “How are you?” then walks away. They are making a social courtesy effort; they don’t actually care, so it’s not a true deposit. In my life, I am striving to be my intentional in this area. Half of my co-workers’ love language is “words of affirmation,” so I gotta get better at filling their cups.
- Keeping Commitments—This one isn’t just about showing up for the meeting or your niece’s dance recital. It’s all about personal integrity: do what you say you will and be true to who you are. It’s about keeping promises, demonstrating respect for others, showing up on time, calling if you’re going to be late and take your duties and responsibilities seriously. I’ve been known to upset a VIP who just walks in out of respect for the person sitting in my office or on the phone. It’s first come, first served and I’m going to ask you to have respect for my rule too.
- Clarifying Expectations— Ambiguity is chaotic and created anxiety – especially when defining roles, delegating responsibility and setting goals. Everyone has different experiences, expertise, capabilities and ideas, so laying it all out in the open – even the “unspeakables” will save a lot of disappointment and disillusionment later on. If there was a “deposit” I am horrible at hitting every time, it’s this one. I “expect” my family, friends and co-works to read my mind much of the time. Luckily, I have people around me that freely tell me to actually speak my expectations out loud!
- Showing Personal Integrity— One of the most important ways to display integrity is to be loyal to those who are not present. If I’m willing to talk about someone else behind their back, what will I say about you when you’re not around? It comes back to treating others the way you want to be treated and do what you said you would do.
- Apologizing Sincerely —This is a big one. Vulnerability does NOT equal weakness. It takes a little vulnerability to say you’re sorry. Guess what? we’re human & all make mistakes. Own up to them. Cath that: own UP to them, don’t OWN them. Admitting your mistakes and being sincerely sorry for them are deposits. Apology after apology for withdrawal after withdrawal will is a withdrawal.
After all of this, what are the “unacceptables” in my life (and therefore my relationships – both professional and personal)?
- Speaking disrespectfully
- Putting others down
- Never saying “I’m sorry” or blaming others
- Criticizing or complaining without a solution or a plan
- Talking about others in negative ways when they’re not around
- Making commitments and rarely following through
- Being quick to take offense
- Holding grudges or reminding others of past mistakes