One of the most important mental tools I’ve used to help my relationships with people flourish is the concept of the “Trust Bank”. I was first taught this important relationship management tool at Student Painters regarding communication with customers, but it applies to all relationships in general.
The premise is that it’s almost impossible to maintain a high level relationship without trust, and that trust if the foundation of every good relationship. Think of the trust bank as a shared account between two people that fluctuates based on the level of trust between the two parties.
So how do you fill your trust bank with somebody?
All you have to do is give them something without expecting something in return.
If you pay for a friend’s drink for example, think of it as you are spending a few dollars to increase the reserves in your shared relationship “trust bank”. If you care about cultivating your relationship, you will gladly make that investment. The best part about the trust bank is that it is not a zero-sum game. More than likely they will offer to pay for something of yours later. At this point you have the same financial account balance as you did before, but the trust bank of your relationship with this person has increased twice – once when you did something for them and once again when they returned the favor.
Even if they decline to reciprocate, you have done the right thing by trying to increase the amount of currency in the trust bank. The point is that you do something for the other person without expecting anything in return. However, if you give and give and give and the other person continues to decline reciprocating, then your trust bank goes down anyway — it requires participation from both sides. In this situation it is best not to continue wasting your time — the other person obviously doesn’t value your relationship.
You don’t do the dishes for your significant other because you’re expecting compensation — you do it because increasing the reserves in your trust bank is better for your relationship. Will this consistent giving behavior likely be rewarded in the future? Absolutely. But you don’t do it for the reward.
Having reserves in your trust bank, especially in marriages and other serious relationships, is incredibly important for when the time inevitably comes when the relationship is strained. A full trust bank allows both members of the relationship to give each other an often overlooked, but seriously important gift — the benefit of the doubt.
Anything that damages trust – whether it be a small issue like forgetting a date night or dinner plans, or a massive issue like infidelity – depletes your trust bank reserves. If you have a healthy reserve on hand, not being home in time for the date night is a small, forgivable issue, and with a sincere apology and admission of guilt, a minor transgression can even strengthen the relationship. On the other hand if you are in a toxic and untrusting relationship, a small mistake like forgetting dinner plans turns into a huge fight, and may even deplete your trust bank enough to end the relationship. Same transgression, completely different outcome.
Relationships with high trust last not necessarily because of the people in them, but because your ability to weather a storm of negativity and doubt in a relationship depends entirely on the reserves in your trust bank.
This may seem super obvious when put in context and compared side by side, but just as we don’t realize what awful singers we are until our voice is played back to us, it’s much harder to recognize these flaws in our own relationships than it is to criticize other people.
Beware though, that even heavy reserves in the trust bank can be depleted over time. That’s why relationships of all shapes and sizes are sometimes so difficult to maintain. Old friends for example may just take a phone call or text every 3 months to keep the relationship alive. Your husband/wife will require a bit more effort.
Try to think of every relationship in your life as a trust bank, and pour your effort into filling it whenever you get the opportunity. Giving feels good – try it.
Happy Monday everybody.