Getting People to Pay Their Share

I always seem to have a hard time asking for money and will end up paying for things myself. For example, my sister-in-law and I are giving a party for my in-laws' anniversary. My husband and I make a lot more money than my sister-in-law and her husband, but still, I think we should split the costs equally. I just don't know how to say so. I get the feeling they think we should be covering most of the costs. But just because we make more money doesn't mean we should pay for everything, right? How do I get people to pay their share? Help, I'm a wimp!


Dear Wimp:

It's time to un-wimp yourself! You aren't being fair to yourself or to your sister-in-law, for that matter. The fact is, we train others how to treat us. If you've simply taken over the financing of various projects without a conversation about it, then you deserve what you get. It's one thing to help someone out. It's another thing to remove their choices and treat them in a demeaning manner. As easy as it is to slide into the role of beneficiary, consider how this must make others feel -- and how it makes you look.

It sounds as if you're daunted by the prospect of a money discussion because it could end up focusing on what you have that others do not have. This doesn't have to be so unpleasant, especially if you speak up early on. The next time a project comes up, just ask, "How shall we pay for this?" Listen to the other person's suggestions, and be willing to be patient and supportive. Make sure that both of you are clear on responsibilities -- those involving time and effort and financial outlay. Keep in mind that if you feel more comfortable paying more, the other person could take on more tasks to even things out. You might create a win-win situation by suggesting, "It would be my pleasure to pick up the tab if you'll help me by making the details happen." Not only does that approach address the other person's needs, it acknowledges his or her contribution as valuable.

As for the party you are throwing with your sister-in-law, it's not too late to speak up. The key to making the conversation work is to keep all emotion out of your voice and deal with the solution objectively. Avoid any phrase that begins with "you," which could be misinterpreted as offensive. That only creates defensiveness in the other person and stops communication. Good luck!

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