How to develop the level of trust in your relationships

There is a little known secret that has a huge bearing on how successful we become.  And the secret is this…

Strong, trusting relationships are the glue that puts us on the success path and helps to keep us there.

Yes indeed.  In a world dominated by technology, systems and high tech/low touch social media, having strong relationships is more important than ever.  And try as you might, your chances of succeeding at anything are limited without the support and trust of others.

How to build and maintain strong relationships of trust? Two leading authorities on relationships have provided expert recommendations on how this can be achieved.There are several techniques you need to be aware of, and the first involves making sure your emotional bank account is full. Let me explain it this way.

In his best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey introduced the concept of the Emotional Bank Account, which he defines as a, “metaphor that describes the amount of trust that’s been built up in a relationship.”

As stated by Covey, “If I make deposits into an Emotional Bank Account with you through courtesy, kindness, honesty, and keeping my commitments to you, I build up a reserve. Your trust towards me becomes higher.”

Conversely, “If I have a habit of showing discourtesy, disrespect, cutting you off, overreacting, ignoring you, becoming arbitrary…eventually my Emotional Bank Account is overdrawn.”

Ultimately, a high trust relationship is one where the positive deposits far outweigh the negative withdrawals.

Covey’s work is in step with that of Dr. John Gottman, a professor emeritus of psychology and one of the world’s leading authorities on marital stability and relationship analysis.  Gottman is most famous for his divorce prediction work where he has been able to predict divorce among couples with a 90% plus accuracy based on the behaviours he observes in the couples’ relationships.

One of the behaviour patterns Gottman defines as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which are:

  1. Criticism
  2. Contempt
  3. Defensiveness
  4. Stonewalling

According to Gottman, when these behaviours dominate a relationship, the chances of that relationship being a successful and positive one are very remote.

I’ve developed a Relationship Bank Account model which is based on the work of both Stephen Covey and John Gottman. And, by applying this model, partners and teams can develop stronger, more effective relationships.

Here is the model.


Using the model, measure the relationship trust by placing a tick or cross next to each deposit (or positive) behaviour, and then do the same for each withdrawal (or negative) behaviour.

Once you’ve gone through each behaviour, calculate total scores for both deposits and withdrawals, then deduct the withdrawals from the deposits. This will leave you with a net score. You can then rate the relationship using the emoticons.

Where the deposits are much higher than the withdrawals – say a minimum 6 ticks ahead – rate the relationship trust level as high.

Where the deposits are slightly ahead of withdrawals through to even scores, rate the trust level as neutral.

When withdrawals exceed deposits, rate the trust level as low.


The model can be used to measure relationships between two people, or to measure the level of relationship trust in a team. When using it in a team setting it can help to gauge the level of function/dysfunction in the team, including team climate and culture.


One of the useful aspects of this model is that it pinpoints specific areas to work on. And the work ons specifically are those deposits or withdrawals with ticks next to them.

Work ons can be improved through a variety of approaches such as coaching and training.


Stephen Covey and John Gottman provide powerful insights into what breaks and makes relationships.

My visual model brings their work to life and gives you a specific tool to help you measure your relationships, and to consider the actions you need to take to build the level of relationship trust even higher.