We think about it all the time, but few of us like to talk about it. Of course, I’m referring to money.

Whether it’s the frustration of discussing the household budget, the boredom of comparing current interest rates, or the subterfuge of financial infidelity, money talks are fraught with anxiety. That’s why most of us would prefer to avoid them at all costs. But if we’re in a relationship, talk we must.

I recently enrolled in a seminar run by Misha Glouberman who teaches communication and negotiation skills to individuals and organizations. Misha, who has a philosophy degree from Harvard, is also a faculty director at the Ivery Academy, the executive education program at Ivey Business School in London, Ontario.

Having to tackle tough subject matter can bring out some less-than-stellar human qualities. We can get prickly and impatient. Some of us get bossy and pushy, while others cave rather than face a potential conflict. Bottom line: Nobody wins.

At his recent workshop in Toronto, here’s what I discovered that might help you and your loved ones have “that talk”. (To learn more about Misha’s workshops visit: http://www.mishaglouberman.com)

The Collaborative Conversation Model: “Hey, let’s work on this together!”

Ingredients: Only 2!


  • “Gee, I might not know the whole story;”
  • “Hmm. You might have some useful information that I don’t have;”
  • “If you see things differently than I do, you might have a good reason for it;”
  • “I admit I’ve got some biases, maybe I should double-check my assumptions;”
  • “Maybe there’s a solution that hadn’t occurred to me.”


  • “I’m willing to share my motivations and my reasoning;”
  • “Some things are hard to say, but I’m going to try to say them;”
  • “When we share information, we get to better solutions.”

How many of us approach tough conversations from the mindset of curiosity and the willingness to show our cards? A more common approach when we’re under duress is the Unilateral Model which goes like this:

  • “I know all I need to know, because I’m right.”
  • “If you disagree with me, it’s because you’re wrong.”
  • “I’m going to solve this problem by myself.”

Whenever we’re talking about allocating resources, like money or time, certain trade-offs are necessary. Until we understand what our/their underlying interests are, it’s difficult to make a good decision.

According to Misha, there are three kinds of interests: shared; opposing; and non-competing. Shared interests are pretty easy to handle, whereas opposing interests take more work. The third category, non-competing interests, can be very rewarding—assuming we show some curiosity.

Here’s an example: The Orange Problem

Two sisters argue about splitting an orange. Finally, to be fair, they cut the orange in half. One sister eats the orange pulp and tosses the peel; the other sister keeps the peel for making a jam and tosses the pulp. One sister wanted to juice and the other only wanted the peel. Each could have had more of what she really wanted had they discovered their individual interests in the orange.

Conclusion #1: Getting curious about each sister’s interests would have a created a win-win, doubling the value of orange.

Conclusion #2: Don’t believe everything that you think.

The next time you have to talk money with a loved one, give yourself extra time to contemplate what their interests might be and then be curious to find out if you’re right. (Phrases like: “The reason I’m asking about this is…” can be helpful in order to be transparent, not nosy.)

Another tip is to write down your goal before the conversation. Discussions have a habit of drifting. By keeping the goal of the conversation in your mind, there is less chance you’ll take an unexpected detour.