‘Shame Isn’t a Motivator of Positive Change’

Carl Richards writes in his latest Behavior Gap column about how we should leave shaming and blaming out of financial conversations:

Think about the last money conversation you may have had with a spouse or partner. Imagine there was a financial “event,” and with the benefit of hindsight, you label that event a mistake. What happens next has probably happened to all of us at least once. One or both of you may have shamed and blamed the other for the mistake. One couple I know experienced such an event, and I have watched them shame and blame each other for the last decade. What good did that do?

We have to assume that on some level this couple and others like them use shame and blame because of a misinformed self-interest. They must truly believe that shame and blame will make things better and may even improve their relationships. Most of us are trying to prevent future mistakes without realizing that shame and blame won’t fix what needs fixing.

It’s so easy — especially on the internet on sites like this one where people come to share their deeply personal stories — to shame or feel shamed because another person’s experience doesn’t align with our own. I’ve tried to apply this “no shame” rule to the way I’ve spoken with people in my own life who are dealing with their own financial troubles; focusing on ways to resolve problems rather than asking things like, “How can you be doing [x] to yourself?” I’m grateful for the thoughtful community that’s been developed here.

Photo: Tricia

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