Open any newspaper on a weekend and it’s odds on they’ll have a financial section. Look at the TV listings and it’s a safe bet that you’ll see at least a generous sprinkling of financial content. Head online and you’ll find a wide selection of sites which aim to help you manage your money (rather than part you from it). Try having a real-world conversation about money, however, and you may find yourself facing an uphill battle. Here are some tips about how you can have constructive conversations about money (and other challenging topics).
Go online first
As well as being a place to research facts, the internet can also be a place to connect with other people regardless of their geographic location. Online forums can be a great place to get help and support from people who’ve either been where you are or who are there now and who therefore are in a good position to understand where you are coming from and give you the benefit of their experience, or at least be good listeners if you feel the need to vent.
Pick a reasonable time and place for your conversation
In this context, reasonable means good for both of you and if that means delaying a conversation slightly then so be it (unless, of course, there is a real need for urgency). Basically, if you think that a conversation is going to be challenging, then you usually want both parties to be in the best possible state of mind when they have it.
Approach conversations with an end in mind
Ask yourself why you feel the need to have a conversation about money with a particular person, in other words, what your goal is, and then approach the conversation with that end in mind. At the same time, however, remember that there are different ways to reach a goal and that they can all be equally valid depending on the situation. When dealing with topics which can be tricky, such as money, it can be helpful to think about how football teams score goals. Very few goals are scored from a team’s own half of the pitch or from penalties. Most goals are scored by working the ball up the pitch, often taking detours, until it is finally where it needs to be and even then it may take a few tries to get it in the net. In other words, even if you want to have one conversation to say everything you need to say (and indeed even if you do), then be aware that the other person may need some time to take everything in and that therefore you may need to have several conversations until you reach your goal, or, at the very least, go more slowly than you had initially intended so that the other party has time to absorb what you are trying to tell them.
Frame conversations positively
Emotions communicate themselves very easily, even without words and people are often very good indeed at picking up any contradictions between your body language and tone of voice and the actual words you use and these contradictions can make them uncomfortable. The way to make someone feel comfortable is to speak positively and clearly about where you are and what, if anything, you would like from them. If you sound like you have confidence in yourself then other people are much more likely to have confidence in you and thus feel more comfortable having a challenging conversation with you. If you also have a reasonable plan for moving forward, then that is even better.