We all know that there are times when it’s a good idea to keep quiet about our finances - for example, bragging about that huge bonus in front of colleagues or doing a ‘loadsamoney’ in the company of strangers. There are, however, times when the money conversation is necessary in order to avoid bigger problems down the line. Whether it’s a fiancee, flatmate or family member, tensions can soon escalate over this extremely emotive subject.
Now you’re talking
As we approach National Conversation Week, a recent survey revealed that 40% of people say that their finances cause them more stress than anything else in their lives.
Whether it’s a constant battle to pay the rent or struggling to stand your round in the pub, we’re often embarrassed by the subject of money (how very British!). So, how do you start this conversation which many consider more taboo than politics or religion?
When approaching this tricky subject, preparation is key. Although it may not seem like there is a good time - there most definitely are bad times, such as on a night out with friends or when the other person is going through a personal crisis. Ask the person if they can find some time to have a talk and then choose a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed or distracted. Where possible, avoid having the talk in the home of one of the parties as this can sometimes lead to somebody feeling attacked on their own territory. The conversation about finance is a very personal one so only those involved should be present during the conversation. When the time arrives, make sure that you have any paperwork with you to back up the conversation. Although it may sound silly, it sometimes helps to ‘practice’ the conversation beforehand in order to anticipate different responses.
Starting the conversation
If the situation that has brought you to this point is more of a niggle than a serious problem, you can try starting the conversation in a casual way such as mentioning a similar situation on a TV program or newspaper article and then work your way round to your own issue.
If, however, the problem is more serious, it’s always best to tackle it head on.
We’ve talked about practising the conversation and, although you don’t want it to sound rehearsed, getting to grips with your first sentence may help to direct the conversation in a positive way.
When beginning the conversation, always avoid language which is confrontational or accusing. Try an opener such as ‘I wanted to talk to you about something that I think would help us both get some clarity’ or ‘I’d really like your help with this situation - it would be great if we could work something out.’
Conversations about finances will almost always stem from strong emotions such as anger, hurt or a sense of injustice on one or both sides. Although these emotions are natural, it’s really important to stay as calm as possible and to allow the other person to have their say, however much you may disagree with them. If necessary, allocate each person a timeframe in which to have their say. It’s extremely likely that, during the conversation, heightened emotions will send the subject veering off on a tangent. When this happens, calmly steer the conversation back to the issue at hand. The following guide will help keep the conversation on track - and possibly save your relationship!
- Remain as calm as possible
- Be realistic and logical
- Provide evidence where possible
- Avoid aggressive language or behaviour
- Avoid triggers such as ‘You always…….’ or ‘You never…….’
- Know your desired outcome
- Be prepared to discuss different options to resolve the issue
- Listen to the other person
- Try not to interrupt the other persona and demand the same for yourself
Although it’s best to avoid emotions such as anger, it’s fine to articulate how the situation is affecting you such as ‘This has been really worrying me’ or ‘I’m getting quite stressed over this.’
Try to present the entire conversation as a bid for the two of you to work as a team in order to resolve the situation, rather than putting the blame and responsibility onto one side and be prepared to discuss resolutions other than your ‘ideal’.
Whether it’s a friend who owes you a tenner or a partner who never seems to have their share of the bills at the end of the month, starting the finance conversation is often uncomfortable. Although few of us look forward to initiating these talks, getting into the habit of airing financial issues is essential and can help to avoid bigger issues later on.