How full is your Bank of Grace account?

How we live our lives builds up a store of goodwill from those with whom we interact. Or not. It depends on how our interactions leave the other feeling afterwards.

I call this goodwill “deposits to the Bank of Grace.” Every time you do (or say) something nice for another, you’ve put a deposit in your account with them. When you greet a coworker with a smile and a pleasant, “How was your weekend?” or “Good morning,” you’ve made a small deposit to your account in their bank. Larger deposits come when you extend a comforting ear when they share a troubling work or family situation. Or you offer to help them with a project that has them overwhelmed. Or you say, “Great idea” in the meeting in front of their boss.

However, many people seem to demand withdrawals from their account even though they have made few or small deposits. They don’t understand that your lack of cooperation or enthusiasm for their request is because you feel they have put little into the relationship that justifies such a large withdrawal.

Some people feel it isn’t right to keep score. I’m not suggesting you log every time someone does something nice for you or asks for your help. There is no need for tit for tat. However, most of us have a sense of when there is an imbalance in the relationship. Too many withdrawals without commensurate deposits makes us feel taken advantage of.

When there is a disagreement between you, the person with lots of significant deposits typically gets a more patient hearing, some benefit of the doubt, and/or some flexibility. However, if their account is severely overdrawn and has been for a while, heels are more apt to get dug in.

One needn’t be conniving about creating deposits: “How can I get in his good graces? Ask about the grandkids even though I have no interest in them.” This brown nosing can backfire, even if the recipient falls for your pandering. Others will clearly see your insincerity and subtract deposits you may have in your account with them.

So how does one sincerely create some grace credits? Consciously look for common ground and build alliances around those. If she likes to golf as you do, then ask about her recent game. If you know he’s going to visit your favorite vacation spot, offer some activity suggestions. If a pal, send a greeting card for her birthday. If you’ve met someone’s mate, ask about him/her.

Deposits don’t have to be large. But they do have to be regular and personal. Mass emails or stamp-signed holiday cards don’t count. However, a handwritten note of congratulations or support will be remembered for years — and earn you a special place in the recipient’s heart.