Previously, on this blog …

I had an American colleague who, every year, had major fights with his boss to negotiate more realistic (i.e. lower) sales targets. “I decided,” said Carl, “that I’d rather have a fight once a year at target-setting time, than have a fight every month-end.” In other words he managed his boss’s expectations downwards. That is fine for creating and managing the expectations of your boss or, dare I say it, your clients. But in managing your own expectations – and those of others with whom you interact while you are dealing with your debts – I hope you’ll agree with me that positive expectations are the way to go.



Creating your own space

The celebrated and late-lamented Spanish golfer Seve Ballesteros told a wonderful story about how he developed a technique to protect himself from the negative thoughts of others, a technique that you might find useful in this as in other challenges in your life. “I realised that when I played an important match, all the other golfers, all their back-up teams and families all wanted me to play badly. I became so aware of these negative thoughts that it began to affect my game.”

What did Seve do? Simple; he decided to carry a bubble around with him. “Every time I stepped up to hit a shot, I imagined that I was stepping into a large bubble. Once inside, I was protected against the negative wishes of others”.

Could you borrow something from Seve’s idea? At certain points in your debt-management process, you will almost certainly be bombarded with payment reminders, final demands and the full panoply of the financial services industry’s “collection services”. You may even receive these communications as frequently as the offers of new credit cards and increased credit limits that you used to receive in the past – until the credit crunch and until the lenders realised that you had finally made the decision “enough is enough” and had decided to reduce your debts rather than routinely “revolving” them. By the way, did you know that the card company might have actually called you just that? Someone who only pays the minimum amount each month is called a “revolver”. If that’s what you did, you were exactly the client group they targeted. But that was then. You know better now.

The bell-jar

Maybe Seve’s bubble idea doesn’t work for you, so here’s a modification. Jack Black, the wise and witty Scottish author and trainer, has upgraded Seve’s bubble and he carries around an imaginary bell-jar. Any potentially stressful situation and he says to himself, “Bell-jar …ON!!” and then the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune cannot harm him.

If, on the other hand, you are the kind of logical, “left-brain” kind of person who would find the idea of personal bubbles or bell-jars – virtual or not – too off-the wall, here’s a practical strategy that can achieve the same results.

Negotiate in writing, not by telephone

In order to create space between you and your creditors, I recommend that you conduct your negotiations in writing only. There are all kinds of benefits here:

  • You have time to think before responding.
  • It will look professional; if you are not good at composing letters, there are some examples in the “resources” section of my book (see below for link), which you can adapt to fit your situation; or you can get an adviser to help.
  • You have a record of everything that has been said by both parties.
  • … and most importantly, it is less stressful.

“Let the answering machine take the strain”.

Follow this strategy, summon up your reserves of patience and persistence, and the huge benefit is that you avoid verbal discussions. They are just too stressful right now and, thanks to that wonderful invention the telephone answering machine, you need never speak to a creditor in person.


To be continued …

The above is an extract from Chapter 2 (“Mind Over Matter”) of “Back to the Black: how to become debt-free and stay that way”. [LINK]

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