How to Neutralize Money Conflict

by Dual Income No Kids on August 25, 2008 · 0 comments

Hi All,

For many couples managing conflict is not an easy prospect. So, here are two tips on ways that you can turn conversations about finance from stressful interactions to productive exchanges.

1) Paraphrasing: A great way to acknowledge someone’s concern or point is to paraphrase it. This essentially means that you listen to what the person had to say, then repeat it back to them in words that you understand. Here is an example dialogue to illustrate the point:

Wife: I can’t believe that you spent $800 dollars on chinese food and movies. I hate it when you do that, it makes me feel frustrated and angry that you’re wasting money like that. How did you manage to do that anyways?

Husband: Wait, so what you’re saying is that you feel frustrated when I overspend?

Wife: Yes, and another thing…

The main point about paraphrasing is that it gives the speaker the chance to feel they have been heard. It also gives the listener a chance to engage in an active listening processes, thus increasing the chances that in fact, they will hear and understand the concern.

2) Avoid Blanket Statements and Stick to The Facts:

When people fight, they often tend to draw on totalizing statements. This typically is something like: “You always” “You never“, “Why do you always screw that up”, “When you go out with your friends, you always spend to much”, etc. Blanket statements like always and never are rarely true. The reaction on the part of the listener when hearing blanket statements is often frustration and irritation, which can heighten conflict.

Instead of using blanket statements, name specifics. So, instead of saying something like “you always spend to much with your friends” consider naming specifics – “Last Thursday and the Thursday before that, you spent $100 on handbags“. In this case you’re naming specific times and amounts. Citing specific behaviors or facts does two things. First, it lowers the emotional stakes. Second, using specific facts sharpens the discussion to focus on specific behaviors that are problematic. Both of these make it easier to have a discussion about money – the discussion is about facts & behavior, not someones character.

Readers – if you have any other thoughts on this, please do share them in a comment. There isn’t much discussion on this topic. This is a shame because most couples fight about money at least once during their marital careers.



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