Reframing Stressful Conversations

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Conversations about money can be some of the most stressful ones we have in our lives, so it’s important to establish healthy patterns when it comes to discussing financial matters with a significant other. If you tend to delay or avoid challenging conversations about budgets and other money-related issues, or if your financial conversations are unsatisfying – because they occur under pressure or in a hurried “heat of the moment” – consider taking a few steps toward better outcomes. Humphreys Financial Group advisors suggest:

Be proactive.

Let your significant other know that a conversation about your finances is important to you and why. Share what you’d like to plan a time and place to talk about financial matters in a calm and straightforward way.

Start small(er).

Rest assured, money-related conversations between partners are ongoing – there will always be something to talk about if you share your lives and your financial responsibilities! As you work to establish constructive ways to talk together about finances, start by addressing less stressful topics and work toward bigger issues.

Establish conversation parameters.

Schedule begins- and end-times for your talk. Be mindful that a lengthy conversation may make your partner uncomfortable. Additionally one (or both) of you may stop listening to the other, or risk getting emotional the longer a conversation drags on.

Determine together the specific topic you’d like to address in your conversation. Moneytalk has no room for “the element of surprise.” Bringing up unexpected topics may put one (or both) of you on the defensive. Instead, you are more likely to make progress on addressing your money issues if you both know the focus of your conversation. Examples of what that might sound like: “The way we are handling our credit cards feels like it is creating tension between us and I would really like us to work together to find some common ground so we can deal with this as a team.” or “This time I have an idea for a new approach. It could be a good experience.”

Pick a neutral spot to talk. Location, location, location, as they say. Place matters, so work to ensure that where your conversation takes place won’t trigger emotions or be distracting to either of you. Some clients have even said that taking the conversation outside for a “walk and talk” helps them stay focused and calm about the topic of their discussions.

Stick to your parameters. It’s more likely you will establish successful patterns for addressing difficult financial issues if the structures you put in place continue to work for both of you.

Prepare and practice before your conversation begins.

As part of your individual preparation, write down what you want to say about the issue you’ll be discussing. Practice your part of the conversation – by yourself in front of a mirror or with a trusted friend. It helps to ensure you are clearly expressing yourself and know how you sound when you do it. That way you help move the conversation forward.

It takes courage and commitment to initiate conversations about money. But preparing ahead of time and scheduling focused discussions about your financial matters can help remove potential emotional and reactive responses from you, your partner or both of you. In the long run, you can improve how you address money issues together – a big benefit for both of you and your relationship.