A Simple Formula for Making Dreams Come True

This is a four-part series we’re calling “Talking About Money.” If you are new here, welcome! You can read part one here and part two here.

If you’re going to talk about money with your partner (and you better), you first have to understand and respect the #1 rule.

No shame, no blame.

Brené Brown, perhaps best known for her TEDx Houston talk on “The Power of Vulnerability” (she also did a great one on shame), has spent more than a decade studying vulnerability, courage, shame, and worthiness. Through her work, she has found that shame isn’t a very effective tool for changing behavior.

Not only does shame fail at changing behavior, it can also trigger the very mistakes we’re trying to avoid. Here’s what that looks like in terms of talking about money.

1- You and your partner really need to talk about money, but it’s hard, so you tend not to.
2- You finally get really brave and start the conversation.
3- Either you shame your partner, or your partner shames you. It doesn’t matter, because either way…
4- That shame makes one or both of you clam up. The conversation ends, and it’s even harder to get it started the next time you try.
5- Oops. Now you’re back to not talking about money. Again. The very problem you wanted to fix.

It helps if we understand the true definitions of shame and guilt. I love how Dr. Brown explains the differences. Shame is something we internalize, and we capture it with a statement like, “I’m a bad person.” With guilt, we focus on the action and say, “I made a mistake.”

In other words, we make shame about us, but guilt is about the event.

If you’re talking about money, especially past actions or future plans for it, there are bound to be disagreements. But that’s not because either one of you is stupid, irresponsible, or anything else. It probably means you have different values surrounding the use of money. And that’s ok. That’s what you’re there to talk about in the first place — how to work together to come up with a financial plan that takes both of those sets of values into account. Because values can’t be wrong. Values are just values.

So to help you and your partner stick to the rule, I have a suggestion:

Get a big honking trucker hat. A blank one. Pull out a sharpie and write in big bold letters “no shame, no blame.” And any time you want to talk about money… put on your hat. Both of you.

Don’t want to buy a hat? Print this sketch and tape it to your head! You can have it. No strings attached.

This is part three of a four-part series called “Talking About Money.” Read part four of the Talking About Money series here.

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