As the tension rises so does the volume. As the pressure rises so do the emotions. And in this space its very hard to have a successful discussion about money.
Recently Kathy and I tried to refocus our budget and, to start with, it didn’t go so well. What the heck was I doing that made her upset?
How many of you know what I mean?
Thankfully we fixed the problem and made some significant progress in our money talk, and we actually enjoyed it! How did we do that?
STEP ONE: STEP BACK!
The first thing to do is recognise that there’s a confrontation starting. I know this is difficult, but it is necessary to learn how to identify this. Take time out, 5 minutes to gather yourselves, and then start the conversation again. When you step away from the conversation / argument you are diffusing the heat and allowing emotions to settle. Hopefully this means you can approach the topic with more care for the other person!
This is a good start if you can manage it, but its not the solution to your problem. It merely helps you work with the tools I’m going to give you! (I’ll apply it to money at then end) 😉
STEP TWO: DON”T POINT – LISTEN
The second thing to do is ask one or more of the following questions;
1. “What just caused that blow-out?”
2. “What were you feeling that caused emotions to rise?”
… and if you’re really bold …
3. “What behaviour of mine caused you to feel like this?”
What I discovered as Kathy and I worked through this process is that my type of questioning about money made her feel like I was blaming her. She felt “unsafe” (her words) as my language was not presented in a way that made her think we were a team. Now, this was obviously not my intention but it was the result of my behaviour! I needed to change that!
STEP THREE: “I NEED”
The next key to getting communication happening effectively is to try and find a useful “I need” statement that shares what you need to feel in the conversation. Hold, on, before you close this article, listen to the example from Kathy and I and see where it led to. This could really help you.
Kathy said – “When you use strong language I feel like you are blaming me and this causes me to feel unsafe, like you see me as I’m the actual cause of the problem. I feel like you don’t care about me – even though I know that’s not true. I need to feel safe, I need to feel like you’re on my side, and I need to feel like we’re a team doing this together.”
Well guys and gals, I can tell you that her willingness to share this with me opened my eyes to the critical importance of how I send messages. This totally diffused the moment and really helped us to refocus the conversation onto what we were trying to achieve together.
STEP FOUR – FIND “WE”
And then there’s the most powerful question of all, and I learned this from some friends who have been married over 40 years, surviving many financial bumps and challenges. The question is:
“Is that what WE think?”
For Kathy and I it was as simple as this so that we could find the priorities that were important to both of us at this moment. Beforehand, we had been stretched between two vastly different points of view because we weren’t hearing, let alone considering what the other person was saying. And that’s no way to move forward!
By using this question – is that what WE think? – you are not putting the other person down when responding to their thoughts or comments, you are checking if it is something you both agree with. This way you can seek to find the correct answer – and its correct because its what you both think.
Now that I’ve given you those tools to use in communication I have greatly increased your chance of a successful conversation about money. Using these simple questions will help you to remove the risk of heated debate, finger-pointing, and getting knickers in a knot. Hopefully they will help you to have a constructive conversation that leads you into a successful financial season.
Determining what your financial priorities are and reviewing them regularly is one of my key Wisemoney messages, and has been for over 12 years. You can read many articles here about Financial Priorities and you can get some fantastic practical application from my book Becoming Money Wise and the free downloads that come with it.
To help people work through the process of defining Financial Priorities I’m hosting a “How To” teleseminar on the 20th of May. If you want a practical process you can use then perhaps you should join us!