Monday, 19 October 2015

Emotional Bank Account

This term emotional bank account is tossed by Stephen Covey in one of his best selling books "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and I came to know about it from I attended two months ago during my On-Boarding Programme with my employer. Although the course has been very helpful in exposing the new employees to a structured way of living more effectively, the implementation of it hasn't been particularly effective. I regret to say I myself haven't been living up to most of the book's teachings. But this term sticked to me: Emotional Bank Account (EBA). 

In every relationship, be it with your family members, friends, colleagues or business partners, there is an EBA and it is entirely up to us to nourish, maintain or deplete the account. Every time we meet a new person, we open a new bank account with the person. Emotional bank account. While many people's private bank accounts may be loaded with cash, their emotional bank accounts may be empty.

I don't think I am good with my emotional bank accounts, hence the urgency to write this post. 

I need to learn to nourish my EBAs with many people, especially my family members. No matter how much I tried to be patient and develop understanding with them, the efforts almost always went futile. Maybe I hadn't tried hard enough. I can't recall of any day at home that was quiet, free of arguments and shoutings. I wrote in The Apples of My Eyes that I adore my parents, but my true intention does not always go aligned with what actually happened at home, no matter how much I wish it to.

I wished I was still living alone inside my room in President House, back in London. That was possibly the best time of my life so far. Not only I was surrounded by lovely people, I enjoyed every bit of my private quiet moments. I derived energy from the atmosphere and it fueled me day in day out. After all, I am an introvert. Now every single thing back home irks me. What can I do to enhance the emotional bank accounts with my family members, my parents especially? And how can I possibly do anything with each EBA within my family? 

With every shouting and sense of annoyance from everyone with everyone in my family, it drains my energy and hikes up my stress level. Again, it can be argued that since I grew up in this family, I actually contribute massively to the dynamic of the family. I may be the one who cause all the unnecessary stress. Whenever I enter the door of the house, the atmosphere changes from peace to tension. I am part of the family and I shall take responsibility of it. I can take all the blames. But what can I actually do?

Maybe it was impression. An impression formed long ago by my family members and they are still anchoring to it. Maybe the impression my family members have formed towards me was a bad one. I admit I was a terrible person and I probably still am. From what I have gathered, here are probably the impression my family members have on my character: hot tempered, arrogant, ridiculous, reckless, inconsiderate, overconfident, lazy and carefree. I don't think any of my family members sees me as a good person. In their eyes, I am bad and will always be. Or maybe I was just being pessimistic. I don't know.

There are so many occasions I felt like giving up. I thought it was no way I could salvage the mess. My EBAs with most of my family members are probably zero or even negative. I am in heavy debt I find it difficult to break free from. Emotional debt. But the thing about EBA is we can do whatever we want with it. The end result of happiness and satisfaction level will come from your EBA with the person. What can I do, in this circumstance I'm facing now, to nourish my EBA?

Here are five ways I can probably do to improve my EBAs with my family members, and maybe you can apply too if you were in my shoes:

1) Be more understanding

I shall probably get over the fact that no one is identical and everyone is unique. I can list out 10,000 weaknesses of my parents but if I only focus on their weaknesses, it will bring me no benefit in the long run. Identify their weaknesses and start adapting!

My mom is working hard for the family but she needs to work more on her stress management skill. She never failed to radiate stress to everyone at home. And because she's almost always so stressed up (even little things can bring her stress), everyone else gets stressed up too. I don't know if she ever relax herself.

She also always assume things. She doesn't wait for one to finish his/her sentence to start bombarding the person, when he/she could well be talking about other things. Based on her own limited knowledge, she judges and starts throwing remarks before one finishes his/her sentences. She doesn't wait to understand the whole picture before starting to act and then get annoyed when things turn out to be different from what she expected. Typical traits of a bad listener.

My dad on the other hand is more layback but strict to me. Although we occasionally spark some arguments here and there, I respect my dad. Our arguments won't normally last for days. Not that my arguments with mom will last for days, but the stress levels are just different. I get so stressed up because of all insignificant petty things my mom can bring up. Even if I just lie on the couch reading, my mom can out of nowhere bring something random up and yell at me. I am amazed.

But I can start adapting! I just came back from abroad after all. Start by being more tolerant towards my parents' behaviours. They are old anyway and I am young. I should be able to adapt much easier than them trying to reverse their bad habits. Understand that their underlying intentions are all for our own good and never malicious ones. Even if they never asked me things at appropriate times, they hoped the best for me.

2) Smile more frequently

I can count the number of times I smile at home. More often than not, I don't smile because I am who I am. But again how to smile in a stressful environment? It is a challenge to me but only if I can smile more, maybe it will bring some positive impact on lightening the tension a little at home? My face is ugly when I don't smile. Then they get stressed up and start assuming I am being arrogant and don't like talking.

But really, I was just being depressed or at times, riding on my deep thoughts. They don't know what depressed means anyway, they wouldn't. They never asked "what's wrong?" or "is everything ok?". I learnt it from people around me. Maybe I should smile more, even if I am having a bad day. 

3) Communicate better 

So often communication breaks down and almost everyday there is a miscommunication in my family. We don't communicate properly and start assuming things. It's our family tradition. When things go wrong (for instance, my mom bought dinner back home even when my dad has clearly told her he was going to cook), argument erupts and blaming game commences. Just this morning, I told my mom I've put the house key on top of the sofa and she "acknowledged" it, but moments later she shouted "WHERE'S THE KEY?!". Again she assumed I sticked the key at the door knob, and she got all agitated for the next 30 mins until I went off at Seri Petaling LRT station. Just if I had communicated clearer, I could have avoided all these.

4) Ask "How's your day going?" 

As awkward as it seems, "how's your day going?" may be the last question I want to ask. I may not feel like asking my mom of how her day goes because it is likely to be filled with many random things, many of which are none of her business. But maybe, just maybe, by asking this question, it could fuel her curiosity to ask me about my day. Or maybe she had asked me before but I responded badly because I was having a bad day. I was immature but I can't remember it anyway. Ask me again, please?

5) Make a surprise every week

I don't know how to go about this, but this is what I have thought of. Be a little kind-er and surprise my family members once a week. A few weeks ago when my family was eating out (we sometimes eat out for dinner during weekends), I offered to pay for the meal. Yesterday on my way back from badminton session, I refilled petrol in my mom's car without letting her know, even when I had no money left in my wallet after pumping it. 

Maybe I can take them to somewhere this weekend for a family day out. 

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