The Client-centred Blog

What can we learn from doctors who get sued?

Would you like to build even stronger, more productive relationships with your clients and deliver more value than ever before?

Although technical knowledge seems to have taken precedence over everything else for advisers in recent years, what use is it if an adviser is not able to combine what they know with the ability to build strong relationships, positively influence their clients and help them get more of the life they really want?

To make a powerful, life-changing impact with clients you have to bring more to the table than just knowing about products, investments and how to structure a financial plan.

In the medical profession they call it a bedside manner, which means helping a patient feel at ease, showing empathy, listening, involving them in decisions and putting them first at all times. A poor bedside manner, as we shall see shortly, can have highly undesirable consequences for some doctors.

Our state of mind, although often invisible to us, has a far bigger impact upon people than we may imagine.

Why doctors get sued

In the US they found that the risk of a doctor being sued for malpractice has little to do with the mistakes they make. What they found was that in malpractice cases it was because of poor medical care and the fact that the patient did not like the way they had been treated by the doctor. In the book ‘Blink’ by Malcolm Gladwell it quotes Alice Burkin, a leading medical malpractice lawyer as saying “In all the years I’ve been in this business, I’ve never had a potential client walk in and say, ‘I really like this doctor, and I feel terrible about doing it, but I want to sue him’.

A remarkable finding

A research project was conducted by psychologist Nalini Ambady to try to ascertain the differences between doctors that got sued and those that had never been sued. Using recordings of doctor/patient conversations they found that it could be predicted which doctors got sued and those that did not based entirely upon the doctors tone of voice.

The surgeons who got sued used a dominant tone of voice. They talked down to their patients. The surgeons who did not get sued used a tone of voice that was respectful, showed more concern and was less dominant. In other words, the feeling state of the doctor, rather than the content of what was being said, was the critical factor.

Your bedside manner as a financial professional

For doctors a bedside manner is clearly very important. But talking about finances and what the future might hold are also subjects that can bring up a lot of apprehension, unease and insecure thinking in people. Therefore, to help your clients in the highest and best way possible you need to be able to guide them into a healthy state of mind, clear thinking and feeling at ease.

The emotional environment that you create in your client interactions is the most significant factor in determining the quality of the relationships you build and how much influence you can have with your clients. Although clearly a vital aspect of the advice you give your technical ability bears no correlation whatsoever with the emotional environment you create. In fact, advisers who lead with their technical ability will often be contaminating the emotional environment for the same reasons that patients do not like doctors that talk down to them.

Your state of mind can be your greatest asset or your biggest liability

The purpose of using the example of doctors who get sued is not to convey the message ‘be nice to people and you are unlikely to get sued’. It is to demonstrate how a practitioner’s state of mind can negatively impact a patient. More importantly, the polarity is also true. Doctors who are in a healthy, present and caring state of mind have a powerful, positive impact with their patients because they are deeply trusted and, therefore, have more influence.

As a financial professional the quality of the relationship you build is the ‘lubricant’ to doing high-impact financial planning.

To this end, it is your level of mental clarity that sets the tone of your client interactions. When you have a high level of mental clarity then deep rapport, trust and credibility are a natural by-product rather than something that requires any effort on your part. You will easily build warm, strong and meaningful relationships when you bring a healthy state of mind to them. Simply knowing what you are talking about from a technical viewpoint is not sufficient. What clients respond to most is how responsive you are to them and where they are at. When clients feel a genuine human connection with you then they will listen to you and treat you and your advice with deep respect.

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