What does stage fright have to do with MONEY?

You would think that asking a client to pay an outstanding invoice is primarily a struggle to those with less confidence or new to the position where doing so is expected. However, I have seen top level executives shy away from asking clients to pay them what is rightly owed. Why is it that even the most confident and qualified individuals still struggle picking up the phone to make that call? The basic answer is this: none of us want to play the ‘bad cop’ role. We do not want to be seen as someone who is cheap, greedy or whatever names we think we will be called. We also want to remain approachable and be the ones our clients like and appreciate. But, asking for money, we think, may turn us into someone our clients will avoid, and dislike. So, at the end, to protect our reputations, we avoid asking for what is rightly ours.

At some point, however, the call will need to be made, so avoiding it is just not possible, and postponing it will make things worse. As I pondered upon this issue, I realized that there is tremendous similarity between the fear of asking for money, and the fear of public speaking. In both situations we just don’t want to look like a fool, and we, ultimately, want to be liked. To overcome stage fright I often recommend that my clients remember that most people in the audience already respect them dearly just for being willing to speak in public. Can we say the same is true with making that call? ABSOLUTELY. No matter what the amount owed, when we go after what we know is right, and we do so with calm and integrity, we will be more respected than if we let things just slide. The person on the other end knows, just like the spectator on a public presentation, that it takes courage to be the one asking.

Another similarity with public speaking fright, and a way to work around that, is to practice before hand. When we are about to speak, the more prepared we are – not just prepared with a great slide show, but prepared to present, having spoken the presentation out loud a few times, we will do better. With making these tough calls, when we are asking our clients to pay us what they owe, we should do the same. Go through the conversation in your head and pretend a few key scenarios – the responses they will give, and how you will respond. The harder the pretend conversation is, and the more prepared you are under this situation, the more at ease you will be when making the call. It will already be embedded in your subconscious mind. If you imagine the excuses your client will make, then get ready with a powerful response in your practice. If you imagine that they will pretend not knowing about this outstanding invoice, have a good answer that will ensure they cannot forget now. This practice will take the edge off when making the call. It works like a charm.

I suggest that you inquire what is your true relationship to money. This relationship affects how we perceive money in many situations. A few key questions you should answer:

  1. Did you ever experience a situation that left you feeling scared of not having money? Or, did your parents/family treat money with a scarcity mentality, always afraid of not having enough?
  2. Were you protected from knowing anything about your parents’ financial struggles, or any conversation about money?
  3. Did you grow up in a lot of abundance?
  4. How do you respond when you are asked to pay what you know you owe?

How we grew up, and in particular, the conversations we heard about money in childhood, greatly shapes how we relate to money in our adult life. For example, a close friend of mine suffered a sudden loss in childhood. She saw her father go from having a lot to having none. As an adult, she feels scared of any instability, and she is risk avert – her husband losing a job, for example, had a terrifying effect on her life, and their relationship.

Someone who has experienced in childhood a similar situation, but with parents that overcame the struggle and did so while maintaining an open conversation with their kids, will respond differently, later in life. A kid in that situation will be more likely to take risks, build resilience and trust in their own abilities to overcome financial struggles. What does that have to do with asking for money? Our sense of deserving influences how we approach this conversations. And, it is hard to feel deserving of money, if we feel that we have no control over it. If we feel that luck or bad luck dictates our bank accounts, then we are less likely to feel deeply deserving of money that is rightly owed to us.

I also believe that how we respond to people when we are asked to pay what is owed, is how we think others will respond. Do you tend to delay paying people back, or avoid getting back to someone when they are after what you owe them? If so, don’t expect others to behave differently. If you respond positively to others request of your money, you will feel less frightened of someone’s improper response because that is not how you approach the situation. Your perception changes.

Money is a very extensive topic, but I think that incremental mind shifts can have a huge impact on how we deal with all of these uncomfortable, but necessary, business transactions and negotiations.