These five steps will help you become less reactive with practice…lots of practice. As you practice these five steps, you will find that over time.
1.) Breath In, Vent Out.
Have you ever noticed that when you talk when stressed that you nearly stop breathing? Or you’re talking so fast that you can barely catch up with yourself. To slow down, take a deep breath…several deep breaths. As you breathe deeply and more rhythmically, allow the stress, strain, and hurt to go out. Breathe in…stress out. Breathe in…strain out. Breathe in…hurt out.
2.) Take a Time Trip
Trips and vacations change us. After a trip, we feel rejuvenated. We experience the world from a different point of view. For many of us, the trip makes us look at our current reality differently even at times with a greater sense of appreciation and gratitude for what we have rather than what we don’t have. So, take a trip into the future when feeling stressed while communicating and ask yourself this question, “If I look back on this situation right now 10 years from now, will I be as upset or will I even remember it a decade from now?” For most of you, the answer will be NO. If the answer is NO, then why are you sweating this so much now when in the long run it does not carry much significance.
3.) Prepare to Listen and Connect.
Listening involves more than simply hearing. Hearing is mechanical. Our ears and brains equip us to hear. You can hear but not understand. You can understand and not appreciate. You can appreciate and not connect. The goal is to listen, understand, appreciate and connect. Listening is so critical as a tool to make it easier to talk about money that a section is devoted to this skill later in this chapter. The magic of listening when talking under stress is that you “get out of yourself” and focus on the other person rather than staying stuck in your internal dialogue and stuff. Challenge yourself to identify one or two statements that you appreciate and as Stephen Covey recommended in the highly acclaimed book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, – First Seek To Understand, Then Be Understood.
4.) Focus on the Issue/Decision.
During my career as a financial psychologist and earlier as a clinical psychologist, I observed couples in my office start off talking about their budget and in about 10-15 minutes they were arguing about something that happened years ago or found themselves discussing global politics and economics. In short, they got off the track. They lost focus. They got distracted. They got hooked by a behavioral pattern of migrating away from the topic and talking about something completely unrelated to the intended conversation. My advice to these couples, although many at first frown at this suggestion, is to use a written agenda. For many, this does not sound romantic or spontaneous. I agree but the purpose of these dialogues is to be financially intimate not romantically intimate at that moment in time. There is a time and place for everything and written agendas work especially if you stick to them.
5.) Discuss with Curiosity.
How often do you listen with your ears perked up trying to catch the other person in a lie, or trying to find fault with anything that they say? If you cannot listen with curiosity, then you cannot discuss with curiosity. If you listen and discuss with curiosity not judgment, then you will find that you will better understand their point of view (even if you do not agree) and you will find that if you are talking about a relatively complex situation such as how to care for and finance the care of aging parents that live out of state, then more creative and novel solutions and answers will appear to help solve some of those tricky, complex problems and situations.
Mindfulness is the glue that holds all five of these recommendations of becoming less reactive when talking about money under stress and even during times when you are not experiencing or noticing stress. Mindfulness is being aware of the present moment. It begins with a single breath. And it ends with a single breath.