This last Spring I had finished reading a few books that had to do with the science of influence. Whenever I read books, I highlight and make notes as I go along. Upon completion of my study I realized I had some interesting points that I could share with advisors. So this past summer I created a new presentation, Becoming the Preeminent Financial Influencer in Your Clients’ Lives, and started presenting it in September.
I have now given that presentation three times and one of the concepts in the presentation resonates quite deeply. I can tell it resonates with the audience as well. While I don’t use this term officially in the presentation, it can be summarized as simply eulogizing the living. What I mean by that is being explicit with our praise, compliments, and admiration.
Virtues of Praising the Living
For years I have found it funny, and somewhat ironic, that we tend to talk negatively about people (behind their back) while they are alive and have nothing but good things to say when they are dead. It makes no sense! Fault finding and judgement can hurt someone’s feelings and certainly doesn’t lift them up – it breaks them down. Especially in this day of increased negative self-talk and mental illness, engaging in backbiting can do a lot of unintentional harm.
What would society be like if, instead of obsessing with how much someone bothers us or makes stupid mistakes, we focus on each person’s positive traits – and explicitly compliment them? We all have strengths and weaknesses; it really comes down to which we choose to accentuate. We have the potential to lift someone up, combat negative self-talk, and help them find greater confidence and happiness in their lives! Why don’t we do this more? I don’t know…but therein lies tremendous opportunity.
Influence Through Social Power
In my presentation I highlight four ways experts say we can increase the influence we have in other people. This kind of influence is earned through our actions, not through a title. One of those is Social Power. And social power is largely obtained by being empathetic and kind. Let me elaborate; it’s not just identifying as a kind and empathetic individual, it is showing it through actions. Someone can be empathetic and kind but not show it often. This has to do with showing it!
This goes well beyond just becoming an influencer. A side benefit of regularly and explicitly praising, complimenting, and admiring others is bringing someone greater happiness – it makes their day. And it will make your day! It is amazing how good the giver of a compliment feels. It is a win-win practice. So why do we, as a society, not practice this more?
Positive feedback promotes good feelings for the giver and receiver. It also reinforces a behavior. Most parents are generous in their compliments and encouragement of a toddler learning to walk. That gives the toddler confidence to keep at it, eventually mastering the task at hand. We just need to take this same practice and incorporate with our adult friends, and with our clients.
Social Power as a Financial Advisor
Let’s now apply this to our practice as financial advisors. We all have clients that have experienced concern and fear at some point, and discussed with us whether they should go to cash. Many of those clients listen to our advice and stick to the plan, as uncomfortable as it is at the time. Fast forward six months and that prior concern is no longer a concern.
What have you historically said to that client in such a situation? The majority of advisors probably said nothing about it. Some narcissistic advisors may have highlighted how they helped the client (and praised themselves). Few, if any, have reached out to the client with empathy and explicitly praised/complimented them for hanging in there despite the uncertainty and concerns.
A BETTER APPROACH
“Mr. Client, remember a few months ago when you were concerned about XYZ and we discussed whether to go to cash or stick with the plan? I want to thank you for sticking with the plan. I know that wasn’t easy.
“There was a lot of uncertainty and fear in the markets. Many investors don’t have the level of discipline that you have. How did you do it? (wait for the answer). Well, I think that is amazing I am so happy you reaped the benefits from these gains because of the discipline you demonstrated, despite all the concerns and worries.
“You are a great investor! I just wish I could clone every other one of my clients to act as you did. We will have tough times again. And I will always be here to help you. Thank you for your continued trust, both in the plan that we have developed and sharing with me when you get concerned. Those feelings are totally normal and part of the investor experience – it’s all about how we act in spite of our feelings, and I am here to help you.”