Originally published on Advisor Perspectives
Communication skills are critical to your success. As an advisor, you believe you have the inherent ability to communicate effectively. My experience tells me otherwise.
Talking versus conversing
Our natural tendency, especially when we are in situation where we know more about a given subject than others, is to “talk” and not “converse.” There’s a big difference.
“Talking” involves conveying information. If you are explaining your value as an advisor, or discussing your expertise or your investment philosophy, you are “talking.” Judith E. Glaser, an expert in effective communications, nicely summarized the issue: “People often think they’re talking to each other when they’re really talking past each other. They carry on monologues, not dialogues.”
Why we do it
Until I figured out why we are prone to lecture and educate instead of converse, I was frustrated by my inability to convert more advisors to The Solin Process℠, which is premised on asking questions.
When we talk, “happiness hormones” (dopamine and oxytocin) flood into our brain, making us feel great. We are no more inclined to stop talking than the addict is to share his stash.
When we’re listening, there is no “high.” In fact, as Glaser explains, “the people we’re talking to might feel cut off, invisible, unimportant, minimized and rejected, which releases the same neurochemicals as physical pain.”
No wonder you don’t want to stop talking. You might be trading a very pleasant sensation for something that feels like physical pain!
The first step on your journey is to understand the biological barrier you need to overcome. The second step is appreciating the benefit of doing so.
The benefit of listening far outweighs the biologically-induced feeling you’ll get while talking. As Glaser states: “…clear two-way, compassionate, non-judgmental communication is necessary in leadership – it is how deals get done, projects get run, and profits get earned.”
It’s also how prospects get converted into clients and you increase your AUM.
Tips for conversing
Changing ingrained patterns of interacting is difficult. Here are some tips to get you started.
Recognize the problem: Here’s a quote attributed to Marc Brackett, at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence: “If you can name it, you can tame it.” Start by “naming” your problem, like this: I talk too much when I meet people. It’s mostly about myself, probably because I’m trying to make a good first impression. I need to stop conveying information and start eliciting it.
Challenge yourself: Most advisors are competitive and goal-oriented. Give yourself this challenge: Whenever you interact with someone (in both your personal and business life), keep track of the number of questions you ask, and grade yourself accordingly. My wife and I make it a contest. Before joining another couple, we bet who can ask the most questions (she usually prevails). We engage in this exercise because asking questions is so counter-intuitive.
The good news is you’ll see an immediate, transformational change.