Relationships & Trust Funds


I was doing a little homework assignment, and I shared an analogy that I used a lot as a mentor at my old job… a “fruit company” that shall remain nameless here.

I want to share it because I love this analogy and I toyed with it a lot from when I first heard it, nearly 10 years ago. There’s a lot of nuance to it that holds true for real relationships. I will put a generic example, but it works across the board with any type of relationship if you apply the basic tenants.

A person’s trust is much like a bank. It’s a “trust fund” in a way. Or at least that’s a good manner in which to think about it. When I was a mentor and group training facilitator, I would teach people how to work with this concept.

When you first meet someone that you desire relationship with, it’s like opening a savings account. You don’t just start up an account full of money. It doesn’t work that way, though we wish it did. You have to put money into the bank in order to make withdrawals. Think of the money in this analogy as interactions with the person you’ve just met.

A deposit can be a piece of positive and specific feedback, e.g. “I love how you approach people with a smile and a friendly hello! It inspires me to talk to more people and come out of my shell. It also made me want to hang out with you, so that’s pretty great too!” You’re telling the person why what they did well was effective, which is what makes this a decent sized deposit.

It can also be a piece of positive, non-specific feedback, although it is a smaller deposit because its effect wears off quickly. They sound like this: “You look great today!” “Nice to see you!” “That’s a cool watch you have on!” It’s nice to say these things as long as you mean them but there’s no action element for your recipient, so they don’t amount to a lot.

Another type of deposit is interest. It requires more time to accrue, but it can be something like going out for coffee or lunch to talk about a shared interest like music, family, or sports. It can be if you and your new friend go bowling or to a concert or just go for a drive through the canyon. This time you spend with your friend is the time that our analogous money spends in a savings account building interest.

A withdrawal is akin to a piece of negative specific feedback (aka constructive feedback) e.g. “When you didn’t meet me for lunch at the time we agreed upon, it made me worry about your safety. If that happens again, please just shoot me a quick text to let me know you can’t make it but you’re okay. I will understand and we can reschedule.” The withdrawal is an important type of transaction with any relationship as you establish boundaries. It’s easier when you have report with them, which is why you need to make those deposits. You can think of these types of withdrawals as being moved into an IRA where they actually make more money for you down the line. When a person sees that you’re giving them negative specific feedback, they follow the new plan, and then you both see improvement. They will in fact have more respect for you and a stronger bond with you than if you only made regular deposits.

A withdrawal you DO NOT want to make, because it can end up closing your account, or put you in the red and you’ll actually owe interest on it, is negative, non-specific feedback. It tends to be a hurtful statement that while it may be partly or wholly true, it has no couth, explanation, or reasoning behind it and is often rude or unnecessary. It sounds like this: “You’re packin’ on some pounds, tubs!” “Your dog is stupid.” “Wow, you’re a terrible driver!”

So, hopefully, this analogy is helpful and interesting. When you consider how to treat people, if you think about the relationship you have with them as a savings account, you’ll be sure to consider carefully the interactions you have with them. Make plenty of deposits and only make withdrawals that you can afford.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s