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Basic Conflict Resolution Skills: Money Conflict: Resolving & Managing It

Money ConflictWhat You May Be Feeling

If you are experiencing money conflict, you may be feeling trapped, anxious, depressed, angry, afraid, even perhaps suicidal. If you are experiencing extreme distress such as suicidal thoughts, please seek immediate help (see our resources page here).

Through my mediation practice I have witnessed business partners, mostly men, respond to money conflict in their business by openly crying, displaying rage or crippling depression. These folks recount countless sleepless nights, their health falling apart, partners steeped in alcohol and substance abuse, and their relationships, both personal and professional, have become toxic.

Money is probably a primary reason why you got into business in the first place. To support your family, seek freedom, or perhaps make a meaningful impact in the world. Our relationship with money has enormous influence on the quality of our life and how we relate to others.

Some people see money as a status symbol, a means of establishing allegiance to a group, self worth, and power (e.g., luxury cars). Others see money as a means to an end. And yet others see money as a burden of living in a capitalist society.

What is Money Conflict? 

Money conflict is engaging in disputes or arguments with others about money. Such conflict can take place in personal or professional settings, and often in both. Money conflict can take the form of conflict with your business partner or spouse about money. Money conflict can also take the form of internal conflict with money. How you were raised can have enormous present-day effects on attitudes about money and these experiences inform many of our present-day decisions.

Anxiety about money, debt, and business goals are common triggers for money conflict. Differing values about spending and saving can also be a source of conflict. If one business partner believes in saving and the other partner believes in spending, conflict, perhaps even vitriolic conflict, is inevitable. But there are conflict resolution skills that you can develop to better manage such conflict.

How Money Conflict Presents Itself

Money conflict presents itself in many forms. General anxiety about money, debt, and the accompanying stress are common. Changes in financial status often carry incredible stress. Losing a source of income is extremely stressful. Even lottery winners experience greater stress. (Gardner, 2007) The result of the change is not as important as the fact that change has occurred. If there is one constant in the universe, it is change.  Being able to better manage that change is key to managing financial freedom on an emotional level.

Debt is a very stressful source of conflict, as are unrealistic business goals. We need to stretch in our businesses to grow, but unrealistic goals create a host of other anxieties as well. Money conflict can also present itself in the form of stress that affects our health and relationships.

Money conflict can appear on an internal level that in turn effects our station in life. If we undervalue our business or ourselves and compound the problem with poor negotiation skills, we stunt our personal and professional growth. If we overvalue our business due to poor evaluative skills, we may see value where there is none in the market. A common issue with entrepreneurs is being enamored with a business idea, thinking everyone else will love it too, and neglecting to take a hard and objective look at the market realities.

Why Money Conflict is a Problem for Your Business

Money conflict is a problem for your business for at least five reasons. First, it siphons away energy from building your business.

Second, money conflict creates long-term stress habits that harm your business’ longevity—you can’t be as resilient over the long term if your money conflict skills are weak or unconstructive. But if your conflict resolution skill set is strong, it can help with perseverance, which is a key ingredient to success, because you can solve problems more confidently and efficiently.

Third, money conflict can create incredible friction in your business and personal life that robs you of the energy you need to most efficiently build your business. It is no surprise that how to raise children, in-laws, and money are the top sources of conflict for married couples. If you have a business partner, you are in a relationship (but without the sexual intimacy…perhaps). If your conflict resolution skills are sharp, you can more nimbly navigate these inevitable and challenging waters.

Fourth, money conflict can create stress, which can trigger a negative domino effect on your health. If you can’t sleep at night because of the stress of money, you have just eroded the foundation of your health and the scientific evidence is mounting to support the notion that lack of sleep promotes disease. (Sleep disturbances and chronic disease in older adults: Results of the 2003 National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America Survey, Journal of Psychosomatic Research, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022399904000327). These findings suggest that sleep is the foundation for strong health.

Fifth, money conflict can also harm your businesses’ ability to grow from outside sources. Money conflict such as a looming divorce where assets will be divvyed up can scare away investors. Tremendous mortgage or student loan debt can often scare away a bank from loaning money you need to start or float your business.

But there is hope and you can take control of the situation. You may not be able to control the economy or various other external factors, but there are so many actions you can take to control your money conflict and how you engage and respond to it.

How To Solve Money Conflict

There are a number of different and effective strategies you can use to solve money conflict. Here are just a few:

1) Employ monitoring tools to get a handle on exactly what is going on financially so you can get clear about what the numbers are and not what you think the numbers are

    • Leave no monetary credit or debit unturned—examine all of it
    • Try using a personal finance app such as Mint (with a big caveat because I would not advise giving personal banking information to any third party, ever)
    • Create detailed business bookkeeping through a finance program such as Turbo Tax or create a simple Excel worksheet for those who need to bootstrap
    • Regularly track your finances and avoid putting it off for weeks on end; schedule the time into your weekly tasks
    • Hire a CPA/Bookkeeper

2) Attack the money monster with large debt

    • If you have large debt, sit down and make a total financial assessment for the last month. Do not ignore big debts because they will not disappear. Then see where you can trim. Difficult decisions may be necessary. But remember that this is not forever.
    • Many financial advisors have found that cutting down on the times you eat out at restaurants alone can put thousands of dollars back in your pocket
      • Instead of going to restaurants, consider holding dinner parties that are not only more economical, they can be a much more personal and enjoyable experience (e.g., not having to yell in a loud restaurant)
  • We can’t out-thrift our way out of massive debt, but by increasing income with cuts we can get there faster.
  • Avoid spending on things you absolutely do not need
  • Take public transit, use the car only for long trips; if you need the car to get groceries, go for it, but if you are within walking distance and are physically able, consider using a bike with panniers
  • Take on a mindset of ‘attacking’ the debt; once you actually start taking action and biting into it, as small as it may be, you will likely find that the actions do start melting the anxiety away because you are doing something about it
  • Remember that today’s discomforts pave the way for tomorrow’s freedoms and every time you make a financially empowering choice, you are moving one step closer to freedom

3)    Get Aware: Focus

  • Mindfulness is extremely helpful when it comes to money conflicts because it helps you realistically assess the problem
  • Money is extremely emotional for business people and entrepreneurs, so tapping into awareness and focus can put you light years ahead of the pack in dealing with money conflict constructively and efficiently

4)    Mediate Conflict

  • Sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, we need a neutral third party such as a mediator, to break the impasse

5)    Hone Communication Skills

  • Honing your communication skills will enable you to more effectively manage money conflict. See the (FREE) “7 Steps to Conflict Resolution” e-Guide that provides concrete strategies for improving your communication skills

6)    Develop Advanced Negotiation Skills

7)    Develop and advance your conflict resolution skills through the articles and resources available on this website


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Gardner J, Oswald AJ. 2007. Money and mental wellbeing: A longitudinal study of medium-sized lottery wins. J. Health Econ. [Internet]. [cited 17 Sep 2013]; 26 (1): 49-60. Available from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167629606000853

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