Navigating that awkward recession moment

We asked last week for thoughts on recession etiquette : How do you thread those awkward conversations over money and jobs in this recession?

My colleague Mike Caputo, who runs the conversations on MPR’s Minnesota Today site, jumped in immediately and got a discussion going.

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Between us, our readers gave us a taste of how difficult it can be to deal with the issue, especially in a recession that’s created economic divides among friends and neighbors.

They also offered some advice on how it’s done. (Add your voice.)

“I get together with a number of friends and former workers for breakfast or lunch. When calling and making arrangements, I’ve changed it to having a cup of coffee at a coffee shop or grabbing a beer when and where I know it’s a “happy hour,” said Rick Mons.

The point is less to eat than to get together and catch up. “Works just as well at a lower cost.”

At Mike’s site, Jane Leverenz told us that 17 years of owning a hospitality business shaped her views. “If you are sincere, it is okay to talk about anything with anyone…I treat everyone as equals because we are. We may not all have the same experiences as the other at the same time but eventually we all catch up.

Everyone has to make choices now even those whose lives appear to have not changed,” she added. “The impact of these past 4-5 years has changed everyone.”

Brian Lueth has witnessed some of the hardest struggles during the recession.

“I work in lending and have dealt with many people bankrupt people,” he said. “I always tell them that ‘this to shall pass.’ In a week, or a month, or a year you will move on to new and improved problems and the problems of today will be forgotten.

“You just have to stay upbeat with people,” he added. “They are already down on themselves and the last thing they need is more doom and gloom. Everyone in the world has at one time or another had problems that seemed insurmountable.

Said Mons: “I kind of follow a ‘Don’t Ask, Let them Tell’ policy when talking about jobs and economics.

“I never ask anyone who’s looking for a job how the search is going or whether they’re pursuing leads because it always made me feel defensive or trapped when I was in a similar position,” he said.

“If we’re one-on-one, I’ll always ask in general how things are going and open the door if they want to engage in conversation about specifics like job searches…”

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Thanks to the folks who took on these questions.

Frankly, we didn’t get a ton of responses, which kind of reinforced the problem. Talking about the recession, how it’s hurting some of us worse than others, is really hard to do.

But, hey, let’s keep trying. If we get more stories and advice, we’ll come back to this in future posts. share a story and make us all a little smarter.

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