As an award-winning marketer and communications strategist, Sandy Gerber firmly believes that while talking about money is important and necessary; many people don’t always know where to start. “It’s about the conversation,” she says. “Connecting with others is easier when your message connects to your listener’s emotional needs.”
“It’s about the conversation.”
Sandy, whose mission in life is to help people communicate more effectively, has spent over 25 years successfully fine-tuning her communication techniques and strategies with companies across Canada. Along the way, about ten years ago, she realized that she could adapt and broaden her unique approach to helping people communicate better on a more interpersonal level with what she calls “Emotional Magnetism.”
Recently she was invited to share that knowledge and expertise with Sophia Wealth Academy’s Wise Money Talks webinar series, but with a twist. Sandy was asked to apply her highly effective communication technique to specifically help people talk about money issues.
Curious and up for the challenge, Sandy set out to understand why talking about money was so uncomfortable. In her research, she found out that one of the most reported sources of stress in relationships was in fact money. “We all have different opinions on how to use money,” says Sandy. “In 2015, Fidelity Investments conducted research with couples and although most think that they communicate well about money, 45% of the couple’s surveyed did not agree around financial decisions. Either currently or in the future for retirement.” She suggests that, “this is because spending habits vary.”
“Couples who talk regularly about money are happier than those who don’t.”
Interestingly, she also found out that couples who talk regularly about money are happier than those who do not (TD Bank Love and Money Survey in 2015). The goal, she decided, was to find ways to start having those difficult conversations in a more constructive and caring manner. Part of this process, according to Sandy, involves figuring out what is emotionally driving our financial decisions. And, not unlike other choices we make, Sandy believes that “every decision we make in our lives is based on one of four core emotional needs (known as Emotional Appeals) and there is a language attached to those needs.”
“If we are going to talk to someone about money,” says Sandy, “we need to understand our own emotional relationship with money.” From there we can then be more empathetic to recognizing what is emotionally driving someone else’s financial decisions.
“We need to understand our own relationship with money.”
Inspired by a sales book from the 60s called The Magic Power of Emotional Appeal: The Fine Art of Swaying Opinion in Any Situation, Sandy has adapted those key principles to help people become more comfortable talking about money. “Every decision we make is grounded in one of these emotional appeals,” and according to Sandy, “magnetizing our attention activates our motivation to act.” That is, by aligning our message to a person’s emotional appeal around money we can help to minimize conflict or disagreement when starting the conversation.
“Everything we do, every decision we make,” according to Sandy, “is grounded in one of these emotional appeals.” There are different degrees of these appeals in us, but based on our life experiences and on our upbringing, one of these appeals is driving most of our decisions.
The four main Emotional Appeals are Safety, Achievement, Value, and Experience (S.A.V.E.):
Safety: You are motivated by security, good health, sensibility, and simplicity.
Achievement: You are motivated by recognition, performance, pride, and opinion.
Value: You are motivated by worth, growth, quality, and significance.
Experience: You are motivated by curiosity, creativity, desire, and change.
Sandy believes that these emotional appeals, “Magnetize our attention because they connect with our emotions.” As a result, she offers some insight into what is emotionally driving someone’s decisions around money based on each of these appeals:
- When driven by safety:
- Money provides security and a feeling of safety. It is used to buy items to keep the family secure, healthy, and safe (life insurance, emergency/medical supplies, backup food). A reliable income source is needed with a consistent payment schedule and no surprises. Money is used for necessary and important purchases.
- When driven by achievement:
- Money helps to achieve personal and professional goals (gym membership, business start-up/expansion, etc.). It enables the purchase of items that are “deserved” and used to look and feel great (e.g., wardrobe, personal care). It is also a reward for hard work and motivates to excel, be independent and improve performance/goals. It is also important to be paid one’s worth.
- When driven by value:
- Money is a reflection of the things that matter most and there is a desire for value for time – “time is money.” The focus is on saving, gaining, winning, investing, and earning money. Property or asset ownership is desired, as is economy and future security. There is a strong dislike towards wasting time or money, but always appreciate a good sale and are driven to create a legacy from your accomplishments and monetary success.
- When driven by experience:
- Money is used to buy things to create a memory, or for a change in routine. It is also used to have or give experiences (e.g., travel, pay bills, gifts) and budgeting is not a fun experience, generally preferring to have someone else manage finances. Motivated by the potential future experience, money is spent comfortably on personal development, training, and learning, often settling for less income and more passion/impact.
On her Web site, Sandy offers a quick self-assessment quiz that will help people determine their primary emotional appeals. With this free assessment tool, individuals can quickly find out what is driving their decisions and beliefs and use this information to help start a conversation around money with their loved ones. Understanding these appeals, according to Sandy, “Also provides clarity and empathy for the people in your life and for the decisions that they make.”
With the goal of connecting with people to better understand each other and make some decisions together, Sandy offers some key messaging tools to help improve communication effectiveness based on each person’s emotional appeals.
Before initiating any difficult conversation around money, Sandy suggests that the following points around messaging should be always be considered:
- Connection state of mind is crucial
- Must think from other person’s perspective
- Give the person THEIR reason to listen
- Put specific listener’s Emotional Appeal benefit in your message
- The message is never about you, how your listener needs to use your content
- Messaging needs to be prepared, short, clear and easily understood
- Don’t talk to everyone the same way, communicate to the four emotional appeals
- Countless opportunities every day to uncover a person’s emotional appeal
“Skillful questioning needs to be matched with careful listening.”
As part of this process, she cautions “Skillful questioning needs to be matched with careful listening.” Sandy feels that one of the biggest barriers to communication is that “we don’t listen to understand we listen to reply.” To facilitate this process, Sandy uses a simple tool for guiding difficult conversations, such as around money, based on the acronym “E.A.R.S.”.
- Encourage and show interest
- Ask thoughtful and clarifying questions
- Reflect and share what you heard
- Summarize and restate the person’s main points and action steps and ask for an agreement in your interpretation and understanding
In summary, the words we use and how we ask questions will all have an impact as will our connection mind state when initiating any difficult conversation. The more we can understand another person’s emotional appeals, and what is driving their decisions, the better we will be at ensuring that the other person feels heard and understood. Which then opens the door to having a productive and meaningful conversation about money.
To hear more of Sandy’s tips and strategies for talking about money, listen to Sandy’s Wise Money Talks webinar session available on Sophia Wealth Academy’s YouTube page. At the end of her presentation, she also offers a series of free assessment and communication tools to further support this process. Sandy also recently presented her communication tips on the internationally acclaimed TedX stage. You can listen to her talk on Youtube about The Secret to Romantic Relationships.
Tracy and Kamal in their podcast, Talking About Money, also explore how social rules and gender language connotations affect our ability to talk about money. Take a moment to listen to what they have to say as they discuss “potential rules of engagement” and the steps that lead to more open conversations and collaborative approaches to your financial situations and strategies.
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