Money: Rethinking the “impolite” conversations

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Article by Denise Duffield-Thomas, Money Mindset Mentor 

From a young age, I was told I had the “gift of the gab,” but there was one thing I felt rude talking about. Money. 

And it’s no wonder. Our very first interaction with money is being told off for putting a coin into our mouth, as children do.

“Don’t touch that. Money is DIRTY!” is most people’s very first message about money. 

That scary experience lives in our collective nervous systems, telling us that money is something to be feared. 

Then the other lessons about money start from an early age:

Money doesn’t grow on trees.

We’re shamed for expressing our desires and are usually kept away from the reality of money in our family. Studies even show that girls are given less pocket money than boys (up to a 30% gender gap and less autonomy in spending money.

From an early age, we’re told that money isn’t something we should talk about or ask for.  

It’s not polite to talk about money. 

It’s seen as a faux pas to ask someone about their salary as if we’re asking how much they weigh, and there’s no doubt that there’s a gender imbalance in who is “allowed” to discuss money. 

When it comes to a corporate career, women are in a bind – studies show that women are underpaid anyway, but also penalized when it comes to negotiating our salaries.

Many corporations dissuade employees to talk about or share their salary, and often women take the first offer without knowing what other people in the company are earning. 

Research by Hannah Riley Bowles of the Harvard Kennedy School found that women who negotiate salary were seen as “less hirable and less likeable” and, in many cases, had offers withdrawn after attempting to negotiate. We can’t win. 

If you start your own business, you’re suddenly responsible for setting your own value on your time and expertise, which can send many new entrepreneurs into a tailspin. Forget about automatic annual salary negotiations, everything is down to you, and that’s when money mindset issues come into play.  

So many entrepreneurs decide to research their competition and average out their prices, but the problem is, you’re taking on other people’s fears and stories about money. 

So what are we supposed to do? How can we break the taboo about money?

Money is an essential tool in our society, and we should be allowed to talk about it as much as we do anything. 

Here’s how we can change the conversation:

  • Transparency 

Information is power. When we share what we’re earning, we give each other permission to ask for what we’re worth.

When we can benchmark our salaries, we know what to ask for. 

Some industries have been taking the initiative on this. For example, in 2018, a group of TV writers anonymously conducted a salary survey to share salaries, benefits and negotiating advice, so new aspiring writers felt empowered to ask for more. 

More industries should do this. But unfortunately, companies often dissuade employees from sharing this kind of information because they know that salaries are not equitable. 

Many female employees have discovered that less experienced male colleagues are out-earning them even though they underperform on results. 

Encourage your workplace to embrace salary transparency or become committed to being an equitable workplace. 

Otherwise, talk to other women. Seek out people in similar roles in similar companies and businesses and ask them. 

Talking about money shouldn’t be taboo. Money is just money. 

  • Work on our own money mindset 

Whether you’re in a corporate career or own a business, it’s crucial to examine your own money story and your “deservingness” to earn more. 

Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What are some of my early money memories, and how does it impact the way I feel about money today?
  2. What lessons did my parents teach me about money? 
  3. What stories do I have about my ability to earn more?

Working on your money mindset is a constant uncovering of our internal biases. 

For example, you might discover that you’re not “allowed” to earn more than your father, partner, or brother, so you’re holding yourself back, completely unconsciously, of course, because of the unspoken gender roles. 

You might realise that as the “baby of the family,” you’re not allowed to surpass siblings in success terms. 

Maybe you were told you were bad at math at school, so talking about money makes you nervous if you get it wrong. 

This mindset work is entirely unconscious, multi-layered, and endlessly fascinating. 

If we have an underlying fundamental belief that talking about money is impolite or gauche, then, of course we’re going to feel awkward having a straightforward salary question or set prices for our new business. 

Until the world catches up to gender equality, we can do our part in examining our own fears and feelings about money. 

So, talk about money with your friends, co-workers, and networks. Talk about money openly with your kids (especially your girls), so they grow up knowing that it’s a perfectly natural thing to talk about!

Money is just money!

About the author

Denise Duffield-ThomasDenise Duffield-Thomas is a money mindset coach and author. Her newest book Chill and Prosper, is about how to play the game of business and make things easier and more abundant. 

It’s available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. Get the links and bonuses at 

She helps women charge premium prices, release the fear of money and create First Class lives.  

Her books Lucky Bitch, Get Rich, Lucky Bitch, and Chill and Prosper give a fresh and funny roadmap to living a life of abundance without burnout.

Her Money Bootcamp has helped over 8,500 students from all around the world.

She’s a lazy introvert, a Hay House author and an unbusy mother of 3. She owns a rose farm and lives by the beach in sunny Australia.

Find Denise at Instagram: @denisedt & Facebook: @denisedt

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