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9 Essential Skills for Talking about Money

9 Important Communication Skills for Talking about Money 

Have you ever been misunderstood?  Has your spouse or family member hurt your feelings with things they said or did?  Mis-communication occurs frequently.  But there is good news!  Researchers have found at least nine skills that can help couples (and others) learn to talk effectively about important issues. 

According to Dr. Victor Harris, University of Florida/IFAS Extension-Family, Youth and Community Sciences, “How we interact about issues such as time spent together/apart, money, health, children, family, and friends affects our ability to develop and maintain lasting relationships.  If you learn these nine skills, your relationship will be on a positive trajectory for success.” 

These nine skills, based on research by Dr. John Gottman can be broken down into the “Don’ts” and the “Do’s”. 

 Four Don’ts
CriticismAttacking someone’s personality or character with accusation and blame.  (e.g., “How can you be so selfish?”)
Contempt-Intentional insulting, name-calling, mocking, rolling the eyes, or sneering.
Defensiveness—Feeling injured by others in response to criticism and contempt and refusing to take responsibility for personal actions.  Being defensive blocks the ability to deal with an issue.
Stonewalling–Withdrawing from interactions and refusing to communicate at all.  When people refuse to communicate about the issues, the relationship becomes fragile (Note:  it is completely fair in a relationship to explan you are overloaded emotionally and need to call a “time out” to calm down before you say something you don’t mean)

The Five Do’s
Calm DownIf your heart is beating more than 90 beats-per-minute, it becomes more difficult to access the “logical” part of your brain.  Step away from the conversation before hurtful things are said.  It usually takes at least 25 minutes for a person to really calm down.
ComplainSweeping issues under the rug without expressing your thoughts and feelings will only trip you up later.  Bringing up a complaint can actually be very healthy if done correctly.  (e.g., “When you don’t let me know you’re going to be late, it makes me feel like you aren’t considering my feelings or that I will worry about you.”)
Speak Non-DefensivelySpeak with a soft voice, using complaint statements that start with “I feel…” rather than “You” statements.  (e.g., “We need to start going to the gym.” Or “We should talk about our money.”)
Validate—Listen with our eyes, ears, mind, and heart.  Use bridge phrases such as “And then what happened?”  “How did that make you feel?”
Overlearn Skills—Master these 8 skills so they are always available, even when you are tired, stressed or angry.
With some careful practice, we can all improve our relationships by using these nine communication skills.

 Prepared by:  Elaine A. Courtney, Family & Consumer Sciences Extension Agent
UF/IFAS Extension-Okaloosa County

Reference:  Harris, Victor William, “9 Important Communications Skills for Every Relationship”  University of Florida/IFAS Extension-Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences.  Publication:  FCS2315,  January 2012.

Gottman, J.M.  Why Marriages Succeed or Fail. New York:  Fireside.


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