A ‘better person’ has to be one whose emotions are in some sense better. For emotions are our value feelings – our direct responses to the recognition of importance. And personal moral quality cannot be separated from the question of what is held to matter. This is surely involved, even if it is not all that is involved. Margaret Donaldson
The basic conditions of helping are: confidence in, reliance on, some quality of person, or truth of statement; confident expectation, hope.
Covey talks of an Emotional Bank Account as a metaphor that describes the amount of trust that has built up in a relationship. This trust develops a feeling of ‘safeness’ with another person. The safeness comes, of course, from the consistency of the relationship.
But consistency is not enough. One can be consistently grouchy or hostile. Integrity also implies wholeness in terms of emotional stability. A person with integrity is someone whose emotions are in some sense ‘better’ one whose own personal boundaries are not impinged by the lack of boundaries in others; a person who remains whole regardless of the circumstances.
Covey describes this wholeness in terms of what it ‘gives to’ or ‘deposits’ with the relationship. He describes major ‘deposits’ to the Emotional Bank Account that are important for all ‘helpers’ to understand.
The first deposit is to understand the other person. This is elaborated in the third section of this training, but is predicated upon a person who is whole enough to tone down, if not turn off, his/her own inner speech and to listen to the inner speech of the other. While this is beneficial in all relationships, it is a requirement if one seeks to be a helper.
When you listen to someone, you should give up all your preconceived ideas and your subjective opinions; you should just listen to him, just observe what his way is. …put very little emphasis on right and wrong or good and bad. …just see things as they are with him, and accept them. Usually when you listen to some statement, you hear it as a kind of echo of yourself.
Suzuki – The Beginner’s Mind
Another way to deposit is to attend to the little things. In relationships, the little things are the big things. The little kindnesses and courtesies are vital, and the little forms of disrespect are critical.
Keeping commitments or promises is a major part of integrity. There is probably no more massive break in trust than the failure to keep a promise, regardless of the circumstances. The next time a promise is made, they won’t believe it. People, particularly children, tend to build their hopes around promises. Keeping promises requires that we take promises seriously. Don’t make promises frivolously, even, or most importantly, small ones. Big promises may not have the full belief and, therefore, the disappointment is less profound, but small promises surely have a high investment of trust and a large withdrawal when left undone. Be where you are supposed to be. Do what you said you would do. And hold a tight counsel on what you promise.
Another deposit is sincere apology when you make a withdrawal. In the best of all intents, we will occasionally fail to keep a promise. Recognize your debt to the Emotional Bank Account. Apologize. Don’t make excuses, other than you made a mistake and promised something that you couldn’t keep and that you will try to be a better person in the future. It takes a great deal of character to apologize quickly from one’s heart instead of out of pity. A person must possess him/herself and have a deep sense of security in fundamental principles and values in order to genuinely apologize. People with little internal security can’t do it. It makes them too vulnerable. They may apologize about things that don’t matter. But this is a deceit. To be a deposit, an apology must be sincere. “If you’re going to bow, bow low’, says Eastern wisdom.
The next deposit is to clarify expectations. The cause of almost all relationship difficulties is rooted in conflicting or ambiguous expectations about roles and goals. If your client believes that your role is ‘friend’ and you see your role as ‘helper’, these have different expectations. The role of ‘friend’ might be expected to sometimes ignore the transgressions of a friend; the role of ‘helper’ cannot. Clarifying expectations sometimes takes a great deal of courage. It may seem easier to act as though differences don’t exist and to hope that things will work out.
Next is personal integrity. It has been said that you have to like yourself before you can like others. This idea has merit, but if you don’t know yourself, if you don’t control yourself, if you don’t have mastery over yourself it is very hard to provide any kind of effective support or help to others. It is not a matter of liking or even being liked. It is a matter of integrity.
Integrity and entire have the same source – the Latin integer. This meant ‘whole or complete’ and was formed from the prefix in meaning ‘in’ and tag, from a base meaning ‘touch’. Thus, integrity means being in touch and whole. While we often connect ethical behavior to integrity, it might also include a sense of internal coherence – the person with integrity is consistent in his/her responses and this consistency is rooted in the coherence of their image of themselves. Thus, a person who sees him/herself as a helper is consistent in the way they offer help.
Lack of integrity can undermine almost any other effort to create trust. People can seek to understand, remember the little things, keep their promises, clarify and fulfill expectations and still fail to build a reserve of trust. Integrity includes but goes beyond, honesty. Honesty is telling the truth – in other words conforming our words to reality. Integrity is conforming reality to our words – in other words, keeping promises and fulfilling expectations. One of the most important ways to manifest integrity is to be loyal to those who are not present. This is a most critical element of personal integrity for a Mentor. The Mentor will often be in environments that are hostile to the child. Easy discussion about the child’s problems in living will occur and you may not say anything to the other person you would not say to the child!
Your client, teachers or parents may not at first appreciate the honest confrontational experiences that integrity might generate. Confrontation takes considerable courage and many people would prefer the course of least resistance, belittling and criticizing, betraying confidences, or participating in gossip about others behind their backs.
Integrity also means avoiding any communication that is deceptive, full of guile, or beneath the dignity of people. A lie is a communication with intent to deceive. Whether we communicate with words or behavior, if we have integrity, our intent cannot be to deceive.
Finally, comes hope and rational optimism. When adults see a child’s problems as opportunities to build relationships instead of as negative, burdensome irritations, it totally changes the nature of the interaction. You become more willing, even excited about deeply understanding and helping children. If you believe that this child, with all of the problems in living that s/he displays, is capable of learning to master themselves and their environment; when you have and give hope that things will get better, and when your hope is realistic and supported with real skills – then you can help.