On What Can We Agree?

On What We Can Agree 09 09 2014We have become an “I’m right and you’re wrong” world. Local, national, global government and religious factions fight over beliefs and faith.

The pathway for negotiation and reconciliation is being squeezed shut—there are no happy faces, no successes and no progress. Just more and more anxiety and nothing progresses. It has become a stalemate of failure where walls are erected based on fear.

Meet Denise and Pete.

They were sure of one thing: they were at a stalemate when it came to their financial life. Pete was easy going and optimistic. He believed that whatever issues or situations they found themselves in, they would find a way out. He never seemed ruffled by ups and downs. Denise, on the other hand, intensely wanted a life of financial discipline. It was pretty clear to her that without order and a hard and fast budget, they would never have financial comfort.

“There’s nothing to discuss.” Denise stated. “We need accountability, a strict budget and we have to make serious changes.” Pete looked miserable, searching for his nearest escape route. Reviewing their net worth and cash flow statement, I didn’t see anything immediately that sent up flares of concern. Looking up from the pages in front of me, I asked, “Could you each tell me what you want? Please allow each other to speak without interrupting and listen carefully to what is being said.”

 Denise began. “I don’t feel secure. I want to know we can meet our needs and have money to live after we stop working.” Pete answered, “I don’t know what is creating such drama. We make a good living, pay our bills and save regularly. We aren’t extravagant, but we do live in a nice home, in a nice neighborhood. Our children are educated and out of the house. I just don’t get it.”

In order to make small inroads, we must practice habits that foster more collaboration and less antagonism. It creates a healthier existence, a foundation for wider thinking and a life based on values.

“Who handles the finances in your home?” I asked. Pete waved his hand, pointing at himself.  “Denise, are you involved at all in the finances?” She shook her head no. “Help me understand why Pete is doing this himself.”

 Denise’s answer poured out like a flood, “I don’t understand finances at all, it all scares me, my father died when I was little and my mother struggled with money and rarely had enough and I am afraid that Pete is going to die and I am going to drown.” Pete’s look of shock was replaced by deep compassion. He leaned over and gave her a kiss and a hug. “I didn’t know. I just didn’t know.”

Instead of creating a tense and angry atmosphere, Pete and Denise could have benefitted from a method of conversation and open sharing that would promote understanding. I handed them my list of Seven Steps to Creating Better Communications, Understanding and Getting Things Done.  So far, it’s working. They are talking, listening and creating more ways of satisfying their desires and needs.

To increase your money communication (and results) with your partner, try these small but important habits.

1. Create space that is conducive to conversation (which probably means it’s better to leave the phones, ipads, laptops and TV’s off).
2. Set a time limit: in most cases, less is more. Keep it short, succinct and meaningful.
3. Present a topic you want to discuss.
4. Create agreed upon boundaries and rules:

    • Listen fully without interruptions
    • Ask questions that promote understanding
    • Approach with a positive attitude
    • Accept only win/wins

5. State your desired outcomes.
6. Test the results from your mutual thinking.
7. Incorporate what works into your plan.

Cooperation requires a willingness to move past yourself and your definition of right and wrong.  Avoid taking a page out of our geo-political playbook and instead work actively towards mutual success and unity. It fuels progress, happiness and greater life satisfaction.