I mean, no way are we talking Chrometophobia, which is the fear of touching money, spending money, and thinking about money. Not that. In almost every pocket of society, however, is a fear of discussing money which in turn makes it feel downright criminal to even consider. The question begs to be asked though; Why are people so scared to talk about money? It’s been said that “Because of a lack of agreed-upon financial metrics, people feel fear or shame around what their finances look like.
All of these forces — the social taboo, the intimidation factor, embarrassment — conspire to keep us from talking about money and improving our circumstances.” When the majority of our parents were coaching us on the yes and no’s of polite conversation, the topics to avoid that were instilled in us were mainly religion, good old politics, and the green thumb of them all: money. Where money and people are concerned, just the idea of them knowing even an inkling about your bottom dollar sends walls similar to that of The Great Wall of China popping up.
Brad Klontz, the founder of the Financial Psychology Institute said that money, in his opinion, is a taboo topic. People keep it on the hush-hush for reasons such as the need to protect one’s social status, fear of judgment, or because they’ve inherited what he calls a ‘money script’. Now a money script is played like a loop in your head. A Money Script has four categories: Money Avoiders are those who see money as bad and the rich as greedy. In their eyes, they themselves don’t deserve money. Then, Money Worshippers, which he described as folks who believe that money will solve each and every one of their problems. These people can never have too much money. Status Seekers who link their self-worth to what they have and easily feel the pressure to keep up with expensive purchases and the Money Vigilance folks who believe that they need to focus on living a frugal life via saving, having an emergency fund, and being discreet about income. As stated earlier, any of these four money scripts will play on a loop in your head and you’d follow its lead. Klontz said, “if your parents pushed the narrative that talking about money wasn’t appropriate, it’s because they felt anxiety around it themselves.”
Still, for many, the constant display of stoicism and politeness continues to muddy the way we interact with others. Now, while this may indeed provide us with a “loose social framework for greeting strangers and making small talk, for bigger, more necessary communications, it is pretty useless.” Chances are it probably has a hand in explaining why humans are so insanely bad at talking about the elephant in the room: money. It’s gotten to a point actually where, in order to avoid the conversation altogether, we’d opt to lose out financially rather than ask to be paid the figure we want and deserve. In the words of Emma Gannon who just so happens to be an author and podcaster on the subject, “It’s something we shouldn’t generalize too much, I know plenty of men who struggle more than me, for example, to be direct about money”.
On the subject, Gannon goes on to say, “Women are more apologetic it seems, or feel more overwhelmed, or don’t have the tools to confidently get across what they are trying to say without being called difficult or impolite, aggressive, or bossy. These are things I know firsthand. You’re scared of being labeled, and you want to get more work. Deep down, I think companies almost exploit the people-pleasing element in all of us. They know that we don’t want to burn any bridges or rock the boat; we just want to do our job and then do it again. So being that ‘difficult woman’ on email trying to get paid is hard.” Then she touched on the imbalance between men and women in a professional light to which she says, “Women in meetings trying to get investment into their businesses have to go in and prove to people that their model is working before people take them seriously, whereas men come in with like, a napkin with ideas on it, and get taken seriously,” she says and then continues, “We have to look at the way women were spoken to in the media up until recently, too. For women, it was like, ‘Save!’ and ‘Splurge’ and pink money banks to emphasize spending money, whereas for men, it was all about investing, growth, all these positive words. I think the way women are spoken to about their finances is extremely patronizing.”
Now, it’s been established that the money talk is avoided due to it being an uncomfortable discussion to have. This in turn stems from both the fear of being judged and being looked down upon. A common scenario where money is concerned and discussing it feels like a criminal act is salary negotiation. A worthy skill to have under your belt is negotiating one’s salary, some would even go as far to say it is key as it can be financially rewarding in the long run. However, it is a skill itself that intimidates droves of people every day across the globe. The thing to note is the sad part of it all, an employer will most times opt to hire the candidate who accepts less money. “People’s fear of talking about money at work or asking for a raise stems from fear of rejection or negative evaluation,” Vincent said. “The potential emotional and real-life dangers of being turned down all contribute to avoidance.” Then there’s always the chance of imposter syndrome (an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be) making a guest appearance during negotiation time which can actually prevent you from even taking on a price negotiating session. In the words of licensed professional counselor John A. Cooper, “Some (fears when it comes to talking about money) goes back to a socially ingrained hesitation about feeling as though we are overstating our abilities, or bragging about what we feel we deserve.”
As a people, we’d faster share personal things with the world such as our political views, where we stand on religion, and even parts of our sex lives. All these things we’d opt to share faster than anything financial. Well, unless you’re a rapper, successful celebrity or just rolling in that cha-ching! To the majority of folks, however, the discussion of money is seen as dealing in bad taste and viewed as a private matter. As wisely said by Media Group, VICE in regards to money and what contributes to it not being discussed, in the eyes of society, “The amount of money you have has had a major impact on your life. It plays a large part in determining where you live, where you went to school, if and where you go on holiday, and the clothes you wear. If you’ve got piles of it, people laud you for your hard work. If you’ve got little of it, it’s assumed that this must be some fault of your own.”