Conversation power and why we can’t do everything online (even the money stuff)

I do everything online. But I don’t want to.

I run my entire business from my laptop. I send my work to my clients online. I write freelance articles that get posted online. I draw comics and put them up online.

I could manage my entire life online. Especially my money.

I used to think I could do it all online, until last week

I’ve always believed dealing with my money should be automatic, seamless and instantly accessible. I want to view, manage and move my money with a click or a swipe. I want to deposit checks from my phone. The last thing I want to do is call, talk to or deal with another person.

Managing this all online gives me two advantages: it’s easy and I don’t get exposed. No one sees my budget, no one asks me questions and I can just take care of what I need to take care of without diving into the rest. My personal finance is personal, and I want to keep it that way.

But this past week, two incredible experiences changed the way I thought about my interactions with people and money:

1. Walking into a bank branch for the first time in years:

I stepped into a bank branch for the first time since…well, I can’t even remember the last time I walked into a bank. I was resistant to even stepping foot inside a bank. I wanted to be able to do everything online, but apparently opening a business account just wasn’t a possibility. I didn’t really want to talk about my business because I didn’t even know what questions to ask. I just wanted an account and I wanted to leave ASAP. But then I had one of the best customer service experiences I’ve ever had. I spent two hours in a Wells Fargo branch asking questions, brainstorming options for my business and laughing with the staff about my comic about breaking up with a bank. I left feeling so incredibly comfortable and empowered about my money and my business, something I never would have gotten online

2. The Money Honesty Circle:

Last week, I brought together group of millennials for a “Money Honesty Circle.” It wasn’t your traditional personal finance workshop, and I wasn’t sure how this conversation was going to evolve. But by simply providing a space to openly talk about money – a space that we don’t normally get in our everyday life – we ended up talking for two and a half hours. We shared stories, examined our strengths and weaknesses around finances, and revealed deep insecurities around money. It was emotional and unfiltered, and I realized things about my own financial habits that I’d never considered. I walked away feeling more self-aware and supported than I ever have before, and everyone agreed that these types of gatherings should happen more often.

After both of these moments, it hit me: I was trying to do everything online with my money, when what I needed was human interaction. I was trying to figure out my business money needs online and sharing my thoughts and feelings online, when what I needed was a conversation.

Because something incredibly powerful happens when you interact in person, especially around money.

Why connected feels so disconnected

I feel like I’m on social media and answering emails all day, and rightfully so: my blog is how I present myself to the world and I use every social media channel out there to connect with my friends, family and readers.

But as connected as I am, I feel extremely disconnected.

I feel isolated. And some days, I feel downright lonely.

But here’s the crazy part: I know others sitting right next to me feel the same. Every day, I find myself surrounded by people, and yet we’re all in our own worlds: browsing Facebook, checking twitter, sending texts… all to feel connected. And yet, we aren’t connecting with the people right beside us, in person.

And even when we are talking about taboo topics like money online, it’s rare that we expose our doubts or our struggles. What we share is the perfectly crafted status or tweet to send to our followers and “friends.” We tend to show people what we want them to see without sharing the full story.

Even as I write this blog post, I’m editing and perfecting what I say. I get to sculpt the words and how I want to share my emotions. I always try to convey the raw feelings behind my money in my posts, but there’s still something missing, something that you only get in person when you have a conversation in person.

What you don’t see online is:

  • The huge grin on my face when you tell me that my comics made you laugh out loud at work.
  • The tears well up in my eyes when my fear overtakes me and I say that I doubt my ability to earn a living doing what I love.
  • The conviction in my voice when I declare that I’m worth more than my bank account balance.

This is what it means to connect. Connecting in person allows you to read between the lines and read body language. It allows you to open up a conversation and take it in a direction you never considered. Connecting in person allows you to feel the weight of the words.

Especially around money. Because money is not just numbers on the screen. Money is emotional, and it always involves other people.

Talking about money in person allows us to:

  • Share stories, relate and say “Yeah, me too” or “I’ve never thought of it that way”
  • Stop judging and realize that we see on the surface of another person may not show the whole picture
  • Feel the emotional weight behind statements like “I feel like I’m too cheap” or “I don’t know what I’m doing”
  • Say “I don’t know what I’m doing” and see others nod in agreement
  • Smile and laugh

It takes a willing, brave person to open up, share and discuss his or her weaknesses and insecurities around money. It’s awkward, it’s vulnerable, it’s embarrassing… and it’s liberating.

So this week, I challenge you to talk to have a face-to-face conversation with someone about money.

And when you’re done reading this blog post, look up from your computer, tablet or phone and say hi to the person sitting next to you 🙂

P.S. If you’re in the Washington, DC area and want to join me for the next in-person Money Honesty Circle, send me a note!

P.P.S. If you ever see me in person, let’s talk about how this post made you feel 🙂

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