Positive Reframing

Colin Ryan

In this clip, I get an audience to open up on a very sensitive subject by asking a very easy to answer question, holding until I get a response, and then going somewhere they didn’t expect. At which point a student tells me over the summer she made $8,000, and spent it all. Wait till you hear what she spent it on.

Transcription: “Everyone you know is a success and a mess. Has anyone in here overspent money in one of these categories? Lot of hands, so you’re not alone. Anybody willing to share the overspend situation. [“I’m Savannah. I had $8000 in my bank account this summer, and I don’t know where it went. Except for sushi and coffee.”] $7,940 in sushi and coffee… that’s a life right there. I’m jealous.”

There are so many more typical responses to this than what I did. “What did you learn?” “I bet you won’t do that again.” “Why did you spend so much money.” All these are factually appropriate, but unintentionally shaming. I chose instead to focus on her courage for sharing in the first place, and use the opportunity to relate as a fellow bad spender and not as a financial educator who would never make the same mistake she did. The laughter of the audience proves we have maintained a positive space in which to now to dig deeper and find solutions we can actually take.

To apply this: ask yourself, what’s a unique lens I can put on this conversation that no one is expecting? And instead of asking yourself ‘How can I make my serious subject funny?’ ask yourself ‘What’s funny adjacent to my subject, that I can play with before transitioning back to the serious issue at hand?’