One of the most valuable personal finance tools in our repertoire is communication. Communication with your boss. Communication with your partner. Communication with your children. Communication with the IRS. Communication with your friends. Communication with a retailer.
Communicating well with these people is incredibly valuable. It opens the door to understanding each other better and, often, putting you both in a better financial position.
You might want to haggle with a retailer to get a better price – and the retailer also scores a sale.
You might want to talk to a friend about becoming a money buddy – and your friend might find value in having someone to talk to about money as well.
You might want to talk to your spouse about coming up with a debt repayment plan.
You might want to talk to your boss about getting a raise.
While this all sounds great, there’s one big problem. It’s the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room. Talking about money is fairly hard.
Money is one of those subjects that tends to come packaged with a lot of social rules and mores. It’s not a topic that people tend to feel comfortable discussing, particularly when the subject is first broken in conversation.
For me, there’s also the issue of being an introvert. I often generally feel uncomfortable when talking face-to-face with people. I prefer to be quiet unless I know the vast majority of people in the room.
How can someone overcome these barriers to start a valuable money conversation? Here are some tactics that I use for any conversation about money.
Think about the worst case scenario if you speak up. What’s the worst outcome of this situation? You’re going to pay retail price? A friend is going to say that they’re not comfortable talking about money? Your boss is going to say money is too tight? Almost all of these “worst case” scenarios are exactly the same as if you said nothing at all. In other words, there’s almost nothing but upside from speaking up.
Minimize outsiders. I find that it’s much easier for me to broach a topic that I’m uncomfortable with if I minimize the people I’m speaking to. If I’m going to talk to my wife about money, it works best if it’s just me and my wife. If I’m going to talk to a friend about money, it works best if it’s just me and my friend. I generally don’t bring up money in group settings.
Give the other person an easy out. I do this in most non-haggling situations. I start off by saying that if you don’t want to talk about this, it’s cool, but that it’s a topic that I think we might both get something out of. I also usually make it clear that I’m nervous because, often, admitting I’m nervous makes me less nervous.
Have the facts in hand. If you’re going to be talking about specific facts, have those facts in hand. If you’re going to talk about your finances with your spouse, have the necessary statements and other info printed out and in your hand before you begin talking.
Have the goal in mind, too. Figure out what you want out of the conversation before you even start. If you’re going to haggle, have the price you desire in mind before you start. If you’re going to look at finances with your spouse, know what sort of outcome you desire (a debt repayment plan, maybe).
Don’t beat yourself up over a “worst case” result. Just because haggling fails doesn’t mean you should never do it again. Just because a friend doesn’t want to talk about money doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk about money with your spouse. A bad result is just that, a bad result. It doesn’t mean you should completely abandon the idea of talking about money.
Get over the fear. Talk. You’ll be very glad you did.