The Client-centred Blog

5 steps financial planners can take to becoming a better listener

As a financial planner what value is there in becoming a better listener? Is it worth your time, effort, and focus to improve?

This article explores the value of deep listening and 5 practical steps you can take to immediately become a better listener.

One of my favourite books is ‘Time to think’ by Nancy Kline. I have also been fortunate to do a live training with Nancy and she helped me to change the way I listen to people. 

Nancy observes that most people think they listen well and yet they rarely do. Certainly not at the level which can have a profound impact on people and take your work to whole new level.

How long do you listen to your clients?

In Nancy’s book she cites an experiment with GP doctors. They are asked how long they listen to their patients before offering a diagnosis and treatment. The average time the doctors said was 3 minutes.

Then the doctors were observed in practice and the actual time, on average, they listened to their patients was… 20 seconds!

How we think we listen may not be the way we actually listen

What I took from this story is that what we think is happening may not be what is actually happening. Until we put our close attention on it, we may rate our listening skills more highly than is actually the case. This was certainly true for me.

The way we listen to people does several things:

1. It immediately conveys how important you think the other person and what they have to say is. If you do not listen well, it diminishes someone, but when you truly listen it communicates that you are genuinely curious and interested.

2. The quality of your attention equals the level of impact you have. If you want to positively influence someone then listening is often far more powerful than talking. 

3. Being a good listener is a rare quality. It communicates that you genuinely care and isn’t this what people want? More than anything they want to feel you care about them. 

4. The way you listen to someone affects the quality of their thinking. In her book Nancy points out, “When you are listening to someone, much of the quality of what you are hearing is your effect on them.”

A new and fresh way to becoming a better listener 

The conventional and often repeated approach to better listening is to practice ‘active listening’. Although this may put your attention on your listening which can help, anything that results in you doing more thinking is going to reduce your quality of listening. 

I discovered that it is far more powerful to become a passive listener. But what does this mean?

It means listening with nothing on your mind. You relinquish all your habitual mental activity and are completely open, with all your senses. 

Often, we are not aware of just how much thinking we tend to do. Just a few examples of thought habits are, listening to respond, evaluating, judging, comparing, forming opinions, impatience, making assumptions, and formulating advice. 

Listening with nothing on your mind means dropping all personal thinking. You cannot hold a thought in mind and be an open listener at the same time.

Here are 5 steps financial planners can take to becoming a better listener:

1. Do you want to become a better listener? 

The ‘want to’ is always the most significant factor in making change happen. A genuine ‘want to’ tunes in your mind and helps you learn much quicker.

2. Practice listening and not responding

This means that whilst you are listening you are not engaged in your own thinking too, such as formulating your response. Instead, you keep your mind free, allowing the communication in, and seeing what occurs to you after the person has stopped talking.

3. Listen for the feeling

Instead of focusing on the content of what you are hearing be curious about the feeling behind the communication. It can be very powerful to report the feeling back to the person because it demonstrates you are connecting at a deeper level.

4. Listen for understanding

With an open mind you are allowing yourself to become aware of what’s missing or what doesn’t make sense to you. Is the person seeing things in a limiting way? Does what they are saying add up? What are they not yet seeing?

5. Asking permission

Once you have fully heard someone, you ask if you can share your thoughts. If you have heard something that doesn’t make sense, for example, then gaining permission to respond will have someone be more open minded and accepting of what you say. 

An under-rated financial planning skill

We live in a world that does not stop talking. Therefore, the value placed on listening can easily get pushed down your list of priorities.

Yet listening is one of the most under-rated financial planning skills (and life skills!) of all. Don’t we tend to hold great listeners in high esteem because it is such a rare quality?

The great thing about becoming a better listener is that you can practice in your very next conversation.

P.S. How do you add massive long term value to client relationships? Click here.

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