In today’s world, financial matters can often be a cause of stress and conflict within families and couples. Money-related discussions can sometimes spiral into heated arguments, with blame, defensiveness, and misunderstanding coming into play. However, these potentially difficult conversations can be managed more effectively using Non-Violent Communication (NVC).
NVC is a communication approach developed by psychologist Marshall Rosenberg. It focuses on empathy, compassion, and understanding as the foundation of communication. NVC is particularly effective when discussing sensitive topics like finances, as it encourages clear, empathetic conversations without blame or attack.
Observations, Not Judgments
Begin the conversation with an observation about the financial situation, rather than an accusation or judgment. “I’ve noticed that we’ve been spending more than our budget for the past few months” is less likely to trigger defensiveness than “You’re always overspending.”
Express Your Feelings
After sharing your observation, express your feelings. This shouldn’t be a hidden critique of the other person but rather, an ‘I’ statement about your emotions. “I feel worried when I see us going over budget” focuses on your concern, not blaming the other person.
Identify Your Needs
Articulate what you need in this situation, ensuring these are universal human needs, not strategies. For example, “I need a sense of security about our financial future” is a valid need, while “I need you to stop spending” is more of a strategy.
Make a Doable Request
Lastly, propose a concrete, actionable request. For instance, “Can we have a weekly review of our budget together?” is a specific and manageable action that can be negotiated and agreed upon.
Imagine this scenario – you’ve noticed your shared bank account has been dwindling at a faster rate than usual.
Instead of launching into accusations, take a moment to apply NVC: “I’ve noticed our bank account is depleting quicker than it used to (observation). This makes me feel anxious (feelings), as I need reassurance about our financial security (needs). Can we sit down each week to review our budget and spending together (request)?”
Remember, It’s a Dialogue
A vital component of NVC is active listening. Encourage your partner or family member to share their feelings and needs too. Validate their emotions, even if you don’t initially agree, and work collaboratively to find a solution that meets both parties’ needs.
Patience and Practice
Patience and practice are key to mastering Non-Violent Communication. It may feel unnatural at first, but over time, it can dramatically improve the quality of your discussions about finances—and any other topic of potential conflict. By expressing yourself honestly and receiving others empathetically, you’re laying the foundation for open, constructive conversations, healthier relationships, and a more secure financial future.
So, the next time you’re about to embark on a difficult money conversation, remember these steps and use NVC to foster understanding and collaboration, rather than conflict and frustration