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Wilburn: Money talks demand listening, compromise

POSTED: April 5, 2009 1:00 a.m.

Many families are challenged when it comes to agreeing about money.

It takes time, effort and effective communication to get on the same money track. If your dollar discussions escalate to shouting matches or come to abrupt halts, it's time to change your approach.

The goal of communication is understanding, not necessarily agreement. This requires good listening. During a disagreement, do you plan your defense instead of listening? Does your mind wander? Do you tune out if a subject is hard to understand?

Listen for key points and ask clarifying questions. Acknowledge everyone's feelings and priorities without judgment. Sometimes, you just have to accept that you will have different ideas about money.

The words you choose and your tone of voice can fuel or diffuse an argument. Avoid giving orders or advice, making threats, moralizing, blaming, criticizing, name-calling and making fun of someone.

Bite your tongue if you find phrases like these spewing forth:

"If you don't stop buying clothes ..."

"Your smoking is expensive and disgusting ..."

"You can't even balance the checkbook ..."

"You are such a tightwad ..."

Did you notice all the "you-messages" above? Instead use "I-messages," which focus on you and your feelings. I-messages have three parts:

"I feel ...": Make a clear statement of how you feel.

"... when ...": Name the specific behavior or event that causes you to feel that way.

"... because ...": Say why the behavior or event upsets you.

For example, replace "You never record your checks" with "I feel irritated when checks aren't recorded because I don't want to pay for a bounced check."

But remember too, simply starting a sentence with "I" doesn't make it an I-message. For example, "I think you should pack your lunch to save money," is not an I-statement. It is "advice" that blocks communication.

Finally, schedule regular "money meetings," even when all is well.

Find a place with few distractions and include all appropriate family members. Let each one express feelings, wants and needs without interruption or criticism.

People who feel heard are more likely to abide by the decision.

Source: Ohio State University Extension

Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Her Family Ties column runs in Sunday Life on the first Sunday of each month. Contact: 770-535-8290.


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