You’ve seen him or her. You know them well. That colleague or friend from work or church or your local neighbourhood. They live from hand to mouth, bills up to the gills and yet always goes out every weekend or spends on expensive clothes, bags or electronic gadgets, getting deeper and deeper into debt.
You know it won’t last, they know it won’t last, you really care for them as your friend or relative, so why don’t you say anything to them about their spending habits? They seem to be crying out for someone to help, so why not you?
Research from Georgetown University noted there are five reasons that can stop people speaking up or acting on their concerns:
1. You don’t notice that something is wrong: Every one has 20-20 vision in hindsight. Often we get angry or bemused when we hear about apparently obvious self-destructive financial behaviour. During the years before the recession, many people “normalised” the view that spending on credit without thinking about repayments or the future was the usual thing to do. If everyone is doing it and this information conflicts with our preferred version of reality, we often tell ourselves that there is a reasonable explanation for this financial spending, and that everything is fine. Or, we adjust our version of reality.
2. ‘It’s not my problem…’ – The bystander effect: The research found that the more people there are that see something wrong, the less likely it is that someone will say something. This sounds a bit back to front, but the argument is that there is a lower feeling of responsibility if many people can se what is going on, and can make you feel uncertainty about taking action.
3. The person reacts badly/ doesn’t like to hear unpleasant messages
Maybe your friend has a hot temper, or is quite insecure or you have heard stories when other people have tried to speak with him/ her – your friend just shoots the messenger.
4. You think nothing will happen if you raise concerns
As a result you may think that even if you are able to successfully tell your friend how concerned you are, little will be done about it.
5. You think the result will be more negative than positive
Or worse, you may be less inclined to talk through your concerns if they also have quite high status in your group of friends. They may have the power to retaliate and turn others against your.
You have to believe that your action can really improve and help the situation of your friend, make a reasonable assessment of what is the core problem.
A good colleague is prepared to call your friend to account, help them see how their behaviour is damaging their present, and their future. and support them to work to a more healthy relationship with their money.
More about this and the cycle of the New Year Resolutions next time.
Have a lovely New Year and let us know what issues you would like us to cover in 2014!
Onwards and Upwards!