Eight Ways We Sabotage Our Conversations about Money, and How to Avoid Them (Part One)

Last Updated: December 05, 2014

Sue looks back to the events surrounding the disposition of her father’s estate and says, “I’ll never talk to my sister again.” Ron remembers conversations with his siblings about his mother’s long-term care expenses and realizes he’s not going to enjoy the next family gathering, and may not even attend.

Successful retirement planning is not possible without successful communication, but think about the last conversation you had with a family member about money. Was it a pleasant experience or one filled with tension and stress? Did it help you accomplish your goals or leave you feeling frustrated about unresolved issues?

Why is it that discussions involving money turn explosive so quickly? And what can we do to defuse the situation, accomplish our goals, and yes, even feel good about ourselves and each other when the conversation is complete?

Here are the first three of eight ways we sabotage our conversations about money – and how to avoid them1:

1) We Drag in Our Emotional Baggage
Maybe your parents’ arguments about money tore them apart, so now you are scared to talk about money issues with your spouse. Maybe you’ve been through a bankruptcy and now feel the need to control every penny that’s spent in your household. Maybe you have other issues about money that make it difficult to have an objective conversation about the subject.

Whatever your issues are, don’t bring them into your conversations about finances. First, recognize how your past experiences have influenced your attitude about financial issues. Second, share those experiences with the other person so they can better understand why some conversations are more difficult for you than others. Then intentionally set those attitudes aside so you can have a more positive conversation about the subject.

2) We’d Rather Talk Than Listen
We all feel the need to be heard and understood when we’re talking with someone, especially regarding a topic as emotionally charged as money. The other person feels the same way, so both parties are doing their best to make their point, but neither is very focused on listening to the other. The result is frustration, disappointment, anger, and little progress toward accomplishing our goals for the conversation.

Instead, try focusing on the other person. Make it your goal to really listen and understand what they’re saying. Then you’ll find the other person will be much more open to and interested in what you have to say as well. The key here is found in three words: Listen, listen, listen!

To listen well, develop four specific habits. First, eliminate distractions by stopping what you’re doing and looking at the other person while they’re talking to you. Then focus on fully listening to what they’re saying, not on formulating what you’re going to say next. Next, ask open-ended questions to dig deeper into that person’s thoughts and concerns. Finally, restate what they share with you so they know you care enough to understand.

3) We Label the Other Person
Maybe you don’t actually call the person a less-than-complimentary name during your conversation, but be honest – there are times when you’re thinking it, and it shows! Even if you don’t say anything, your attitude of dismissing the other person with a label is evident, causing them to get defensive and shut down.

Instead, separate personalities from the financial issues being discussed. Focus on the subject at hand without bringing in what you currently think of that person or the motives behind their words and actions. By not getting personal, the discussion can stay amicable and productive.

To complete this discussion with numbers four through eight, please see “Eight Ways We Sabotage Our Conversations about Money, and How to Avoid Them (Part Two)”, to be posted soon.

Until then, if you would like to learn more about communication that helps you prepare for a successful retirement, the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals at Pension Consultants can assist you. Give us a call at 800-234-9584. Your choice is your future!

1Source: “Listening Skills for Effective Communication” – Cleveland State University

PCI’s archived blog entries are dated, the rules and statutes referenced may have changed. The analysis or guidance within these blog entries may have become stale, dated, or no longer accurate. PCI will not update or change these entries to reflect the latest analysis or development.


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