“I Don’t Want to Fight about Money.” Really?

Christina Frei Uncategorized
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Let’s talk about uncomfortable money conversations.

A while ago, I was having a final meeting with a project management client.  It had become clear months prior that we had very different views on how the project should be handled.  But as “good people,” we did our best to make things work.

And then came the day when we had to admit it was time to end our partnership.  This is always difficult when you enjoy working with the person, but you just have different styles.

I spent hours preparing for this final meeting so that I could hand off everything to her and she could move forward with clear next steps. Sitting on her pretty white couch that final morning, I definitely had butterflies in my stomach, since there was money on the table. For her part, she looked blissfully relaxed, as if she’d just had a massage.

We agreed I would lead the meeting, so I ran down a list of everything we had accomplished, and what still needed to be done.  She had paid me 2/3s of the project, and the question was, had 2/3s been completed?  Item by item, I checked in with her to make sure we were in agreement. She nodded politely, but I sensed a tension in the air.

Then came the money discussion.  As soon as I mentioned it, she said, “I don’t want to fight about money. I’m in a Zen place and I just want to feel peaceful. I decided a long time ago I wouldn’t fight about money, and I have been blessed with money ever since.”  I replied that I didn’t want to fight either, but I did want to get to the truth of how we both felt about it. That way, we could come to an agreement and move on.

When I mentioned I felt we were square with money, based on the checklist we had reviewed, she immediately disagreed.  And then insisted she didn’t want to fight about money.  I was confused because she had raised no objection when we went down the checklist.

I repeated that I didn’t want to fight, but that I wanted to get to the truth.(Incidentally, I find that when money is on the table, people stop being polite and say what’s real.  It’s uncomfortable, but it gets people talking. I appreciate that.)

She still said she wasn’t happy, but she wasn’t offering a resolution.  So finally I asked her if I reimbursed her for a certain amount, would that make us square? The amount I suggested felt like a true middle ground. She said yes.

As I wrote that check, I felt all kinds of freedom, all kinds of “Zen” from having the courage to come to an agreement, even if it was difficult to part with the money.  We would go our separate ways, no hard feelings.

I used to feel the way she did about money. I was afraid to address it with people.  Even talking about it felt like fighting. I also used to be so desperate to “feel Zen,” that I would avoid confronting what really mattered.  Can you relate?

More and more, I realize that feeling Zen does not mean avoiding what I care about. It comes from making a positive difference in people’s lives in a way that fuels me too. (By the way, this is what Generosity Practice brings me.)

That joy gives me the courage to acknowledge uncomfortable truths and act on them.  It doesn’t always look peaceful from the outside, but it brings an inner calm that rivals hours of meditation on a mountain top.