As I mentioned last week, we are looking at how to approach difficult conversations this month. Here is what we have learned from the hundreds of tough conversations we’ve had:
- Of course, it helps to have a relationship with them. Someone is more likely to listen when they know you are looking out for them and want the best for them. It’s also easier to notice small changes sooner and possibly handle the situation before it gets too out of hand. Subtle questions along the way can be a soft opening to that deeper conversation. It doesn’t always need to be an intervention.
- This can be your chance to give the “emotional pitch”. It could be giving an example of someone else you know who just went through a tough situation with their family and that you just wanted to ask if that’s something they’ve thought of.
- They may express their discomfort with some of these conversations. There are people who do not want to confront these topics. As an example, it can be very difficult to talk about beneficiaries or a Trust for some people.
- We find people talk quite a bit when we ask simple probing questions. They can tell us concerns that we would never have even known to ask about had we not spent just a few minutes to listen.
• Seek support.
- Sometimes people may need support when going through these tough decisions. Having someone they trust may allow them to be more receptive to comments or suggestions. This could be a friend of theirs, another loved one, or even a professional.
- We need to assess our own standing with that person. It’s not always because of you. As an example, some people favor a professional’s opinion far beyond even an adult child’s. Or perhaps budgeting is a sore subject with a loved one because of something in their (or your) past.
- Be careful to not make them feel ambushed.
• Use a professional, if needed.
- You may need to do the legwork to find a possible professional to help. It often helps to say, “Hey, I actually just talked with this person that I met who is a [blank] and seemed to know a lot about [blank]. They said they regularly give second opinions about this kind of thing, and promised to be hassle free.” Just make sure they are actually hassle free if you are claiming it…haha.
- We often joke with clients to let us take the flak. Offload that responsibility to someone who is equipped to handle the situation. A professional shouldn’t have anything “at stake” other than trying to bring the most benefit to that individual. In an essence, that professional is a common enemy. So if they decide to never talk to the professional again, that’s better than losing the relationship with a friend or a loved one.
• Be factual.
- This does mean doing some homework. You have to know what you are talking about and not just coming from a place of emotion. Being overly prepared for the questions that may come is a good thing. Just be wise with how much of that information you drop on them. This could be knowing the costs for in- home care in your area. Or knowing how much college you can (or want to) afford.
- Since money is often, unfortunately, a numbers conversation, it’s important to know those numbers.
• Be transparent.
- For anyone to hear where you are coming from, it’s good to be as transparent as you can. It can convey that your heart is in the right place.
- In the situation of “taking over” someone’s finances, the “trust me” card can come across as manipulative. That is THEIR money, not yours. They still deserve to be treated like an adult. Even if they say, “just handle it, I trust you”, still go out of your way to explain to them what’s going on and give them the bookkeeping.
• Be willing to circle back later.
- Leave the door open for them ponder and perhaps warm up to the idea later. Once people cool down a bit, they may see that you do care, that you went out of your way to look up information, and that you came from a place that intended to help.
- None of these things may happen on the 1st, or even 10th attempt. We have seen these topics go unanswered for decades, so don’t let that dissuade you. If you are truly one of the best advocates for change in their life, then preserving the relationship is still important.
- This also gives you the chance to look for more information or a professional to make a better decision. Many of these decisions don’t need to be made in 1 hour. Having tremendous urgency isn’t always needed.
Well, hope that was helpful, and for possibly more than just finances. And if any of these topics made you think of something, or someone, please feel encouraged to reach out or forward this to them. We do want everyone to have more fruitful conversations about money.
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