If you’ve ever gotten into conversations with broke friends about money, you know how hard it is to determine if they actually want your help. There are ways to figure that out and perhaps lead your discussion to deeper levels. If that happens, you’ll learn more about your friend’s financial struggles and perhaps be able to offer some counsel.
The counsel part is when it gets really tough. If you’ve had success with money, you know what has to be done…
Get out of debt.
Invest, invest, and invest some more.
But your broke friends might not want to listen or hear any of that.
When someone is in a heap of financial trouble there are reasons for that trouble. Those reasons could be diverse. However, more than likely they result from lack of knowledge and poor behaviors/decisions.
When our way of life becomes ingrained – in other words, normal and acceptable to us – we really don’t want to hear ways to live differently. We have your set routines and way of thinking. The more we practice the same things over and over the less likely it will be for use to break out of the mold and see things differently.
Even in the realm of money.
In order to break through and see outside the box, we either have to experience severe pain, be faced with a crisis or be shocked by someone or something. We don’t simply wake up one morning and say “I think I’ll change all my habits today.”
Behavior change comes as we act upon the pressures forced upon us by others and by ourselves.
So if you are in a money conversation with a broke friend who is lamenting their situation, you may have to lob a few shocking statements their way. Most likely they won’t want to hear them. They’ll probably become upset if you use this strategy, even if you do so with a calm, sensitive and caring tone.
“How dare you tell me how to live my life!” you may hear them say.
But with some people you can’t beat around the bush in the hopes they’ll get it. You can be empathetic and at the same time be direct and passionate. Let them know what you think. If they are truly your friend, hopefully they’ll appreciate it in the long run.
Shock Your Broke Friends Into Change
If you want to facilitate and create behavior change in the lives of your broke friends, let them hear you say these things:
1. “That’s not good enough.”
This statement creates a minimal and acceptable standard to reach.
Your friend might be proud of what they are accomplishing. From your vantage point you can see more has to be done. You’ve learned what it takes to be successful and you know what they are doing isn’t going to cut it.
So you have to push them by saying, “Hey, it sounds like you are making progress but what you are doing simply isn’t good enough. You have to push harder to win with money.”
2. “That’s hurting you/them.”
This statement forces them to see how their actions are impacting not only them but those around them.
Often times the last thing we want to see or acknowledge is that our actions are having a negative impact. We’d rather bury our heads in the sand and pretend we really are not hurting anyone. We’d rather justify the behavior and avoid dealing with the outcome.
By pointing this out, you force your friend to confront the painful truth that their behavior is damaging.
3. “That’s affecting your future.”
This statement causes your friend to project beyond the present.
One of the most effective methods for creating change is to visualize what you want life to be like 10, 20 or 30 years down the road and then set a goal to reach that vision. It’s hard for us to project what we will be doing 30 years from now but it’s not hard to project what we want to be doing. We can easily dream about what we want life to become for us.
So causing them to confront their future self can be an effective method to facilitate change in the present. When they see how their life might turn out because of their present actions they may not like it and choose to do something about it.
It’s a method that certainly worked for Scrooge.
4. “That’s wrong/bad.”
This statement challenges your friend on the morality or ethics of what they are doing.
Let’s face it…some actions are just wrong. Morally. Legally. Ethically. And in every situation they eventually cause us harm. Even if we don’t get caught there are emotional and psychological issues we have to live with.
But we are masters at rationalizing our behavior and convincing ourselves “It’s not really wrong.” That’s why it’s often left to others to point out the error in our thinking.
Be prepared here though. Whenever you start telling someone they are wrong, you open yourself up to two things:
- A philosophical debate about morality and the definition of “wrong” and…
- Having your friend point the finger back at you and criticize all your “wrongs.”
That’s why this particular statement is so hard to make. We don’t like debating ethical, moral or spiritual issues and we don’t want to be called a hypocrite.
However, when your friends realize they are on the wrong side of the good-bad-wrong-right debate, that may give them the incentive they need to change.
5. “That’s incorrect.”
This statement points out errors in knowledge.
A little less controversial than the “That’s wrong” statement, this allows you to challenge incorrect information they may have received. We always make mistakes based on bad information or advice and there is a lot of that in the realm of personal finance.
The great thing about this statement is that it creates the easiest path to change. All they have to do is get the right information and implement that in their life.
6. “That’s dumb/stupid/silly.”
This ultimate shocking statement introduces them to best practices, plans or steps.
Yes, it’s blunt. Yes, it’s forceful and in your face. And I supposed if you wanted to be slightly more tactful you could say, “That’s not the best way to do it.”
But like I said sometimes we need to raise the tension level of our broke friends to create change and this statement might just be the thing they need. (Plus you can always walk it back later and apologize for being so harsh.)
If I were going to use this phrase I’d quickly follow it up with a personal example. Haven’t we all done our share of stupid mistakes that cost us money? I sure have. Sharing where you’ve been stupid and what it cost you will lessen the sting of the statement. It will even provide encouragement that you had a failure but were able to move beyond it.
It Takes Courage to Be Blunt
All of these statements will shock your friends, some deeper than others. They are not used to someone telling them, “That’s wrong” or “That’s stupid.” So it will mean more (but it might even sting more) hearing it come from your lips – a trusted friend.
So be prepared for some resistance and hurt feelings.
To lessen the negativity though, be sure to use the word “That’s” instead of “You’re.” Go back an insert “You’re” into each of those statements. Don’t they feel a lot more personal when read that way?
“That’s” puts the emphasis on the behavior. “You’re” puts it on the person. People will become more defensive if they feel you are personally criticizing them or their character as opposed to their behavior. It’s a fine line to draw but a critical distinction.
So be bold and help your broke friends. It won’t be easy but it might just change their life.
Wouldn’t that be worth it?
Questions: Do you think these statements would just tick off your broke friends? Could you ever/have you ever been this bold? Do you think any of these are out of bounds if done properly? How would you react if someone said, “That’s stupid!”? Do you think there is a difference between pointing to the behavior and not the person, or is it all one in the same?