How to get through to someone

I had a conversation with a yoga teacher named Dalia (not her real name). This note isn't really about her story--it's about what I learned about getting through to someone who is paralyzed by fear, shame, and overwhelm regarding money matters.

tl;dr--when a person can feel their blocking emotions fully, and accept them, they become receptive to learning. People are hungry for knowledge. Behind the blocking emotion is a gap. I can drop a knowledge bomb into that gap. Something clicks for the person. The emotion changes from fear to excitement, shame to pride, overwhelm to confidence.

Dalia's beliefs

Dalia comes from a family that equates work with money:

  • "My upbringing, if you're not working, money doesn't come"
  • "You put in your hours... your worth comes from working hard, your work makes you a valuable person"
  • "If I'm not working hard, my feeling is frustration, WTF, I'm still struggling to make $3000/month... underneath is the shame, of not knowing what I'm doing, never taught, not having the tools"

The shame, and fear, of not knowing

I've talked with 89 people so far about emotions and finance. Not knowing how money works is a big source of shame for both men and women.

  • "We feel we're not savvy--nobody told us these are the steps"
  • "I don't know what I'm doing, I don't know who to ask, what to ask"

Right behind the shame, there's fear and avoidance:

  • "I don't do anything about it, planning for the future, I worry about it"
  • "If I don't look, it's not there... but that's not getting me closer to understanding, or making the smallest steps"
  • "If you're not savvy about it, you'll never get rich"
  • "Interest in the bank is nothing, what is the highest interest, put it in bonds, I don't know what to do"

This is where I dropped a knowledge bomb

If you know finance, this one is easy!

I showed Dalia what a money market mutual fund is and how to set one up. She went from getting 1% on her savings to ~5.4%. (Let me know if you think I should make a guide or a video on this.)

I can be stern with people. I extracted a promise from Dalia that she would go home that day, log in to her brokerage account, and transfer a set amount of money into the money market fund, and then report to me how she felt after doing that task.

What's the lesson here?

In this conversation, Dalia had a chance to get into all of her blocking emotions--fear, shame, overwhelm--and express them fully. Once those things were felt and heard, she was receptive to knowledge and even excited to learn. If I had started with "what's your biggest financial problem that you need to fix today" that wouldn't have worked. After learning the lesson, I forced her to take action using her newfound knowledge. This did two things for her:

1) Forced her to confront her fear of making financial decisions again, except in this case, she already knew the right answer, building a sense of confidence

2) Crystallized what she had learned by immediately applying it in the real world to a discrete problem in her life

Fear to excitement, shame to pride, overwhelm to confidence

How do you feel now, Dalia? Her words:

  • "Calmness"
  • "Now I have a nugget of information that I can work towards--feeling more empowered, more confident, can I make that knowledge grow"

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