Investing in Personal Relationships to Accelerate Pandemic Recovery

January 29, 2021



If you feel like the length of our collective fuse seems to be shortening by the day, there may be a reason. Psychiatrists studying the societal impact of the pandemic believe the high volume of anxiety, sadness and loss is injecting our day-to-day with more irritability than is typical.  

It certainly makes sense. However, even though our apparent erosion of patience is not surprising, it’s still unsettling. And, it needs to change if we’re going to fully recover from one of the most stressful years of all time.  

What does change look like? For one, we need to try harder to see the best, not the worst, in people. And, we need to give the benefit of the doubt more often. It may come down to each of us coming to terms with the fact that our way is not the only way and that compromise is the key ingredient to progress. Overall, change looks a lot like an investment in personal relationships.  

In an ideal society, one that values community over individuality, people would support each other in taking a step back – or a cleansing breath – before unloading their frustrations.  

Of course, living our digital-first lifestyles isn’t helping matters. Many of the platforms that were designed to bring people together by forging connections have, in fact, done the opposite. Hitting send without thinking (or feeling) is something that’s way too easy to do in our always-on, always-connected society. I’m as guilty as the next person of firing off cannons in a Tweet, text or email.  

Because I’m not proud of this behavior, I’ve made a conscious effort to be more aware of the temptation to vent and to be more intentional about doing something more productive. I’ve figured out that my urge to respond to bad news with a bad tone comes mainly when I’m feeling misunderstood.  

It’s not too much of a stretch to imagine the person on the other end will feel the same when they read my rant. Text-based tirades flying back and forth rarely lead to harmony. So, this year, I’m going to take deliberate steps toward investing in personal relationships. I will ask more questions. I’ll assume the best. I’ll give people a chance to voice their intentions rather than a project status.  

I expect it to pay big dividends.  

That’s because Bank Iowa, like many people-centered businesses looking out at the horizon, is going through a rapid transformation to exceed new and shifting expectations. The ultimate success of our audacious plans for new products, enhanced experiences and improved give-back programs hinges on collaboration. And collaboration, as we all know, calls for patience, empathy and active listening. It calls for a strategic investment in personal relationships.  

Mark K. Phillips is vice president of treasury management services for Bank Iowa, Iowa’s second largest family-owned financial institution. He can be reached at To learn more, visit Member FDIC.