Without a doubt the most important ingredient in any healthy and meaningful relationship is trust: the firm belief in the honesty and reliability of another person. As a result, we are beginning to create a Teen Trust curriculum to help students understand the aspects of trust and develop the skills to bring trust into their relationships.

In his outstanding work on highly effective people, Dr. Stephen Covey presents the concept of the Emotional Bank Account to explain how trust is build or lost in a relationship. Like a savings account, we can make deposits to or take withdrawals from our Emotional Bank Account.

Let’s consider six ways to build our Emotional Bank Account:

  1. Being Kind: When Kevin was in grade school and was trying out for the soccer team, he was nervous due to the competition, but also nervous because he didn’t know any of the other players. He got his gear on by himself and stood waiting for tryouts to begin on the outskirts of where other players were talking and laughing. When the coach yelled “Partner UP,” Kevin’s stomach dropped because he didn’t know anyone else and surely had no one to ‘partner up’ with. At that moment, another boy looked at Kevin and shouted, “Wanna be with me on this drill?” Kevin immediately calmed down, felt relief, and felt the beginnings of belonging.

This little act of kindness from the other boy at tryouts meant a great deal to Kevin. Every act of kindness, big or small, is a deposit in someone Emotional Bank Account.

  1. Telling the Truth: An absolute requirement of being trustworthy is telling the truth.
  2. Keeping Promises: When we make a promise, we build hope. When we keep a promise, we build trust.

  1. Speaking Well of Those Who Are Not Present: When we Honor the Absent or speak well of someone who isn’t present, we build trust with those who are present. They believe that we will speak well of them when they are not present.
  2. Apologizing: No matter how hard we try not to, we are going to say or do something that offends another person. If we apologize after offending someone, we restore trust.
  3. Meeting Expectations: Expectations become a part of all relationships. When we meet expectations, we build trust. Unmet expectations take withdrawals from our Emotional Bank Account. Sometimes expectations are not met because they are not clear. If we find that our expectations with someone are not being met, it may mean that we need to clarify the expectations.


  1. Consider a relationship you have that has a high Emotional Bank Account. What have you done that has made significant deposits?
  2. Consider a relationship in which you would like to increase the Emotional Bank Account. What have you done that has taken withdrawals and what can you do to establish deposits?

From our Top 20 team: Willow, Tom, and Kevin.

Paul Bernabei
Top 20 Training