The ClientWise Blog

Financial Advisors: Get to Your Clients’ Truth. Test Your Assumptions

Posted by Chris Holman on Apr 23, 2013 12:02:00 PM

Our brains process each new experience through filters that have various forms. When it comes to listening to others, these filters often exert great influence.


The filters that shape our listening are surprisingly numerous. What we hear can be influenced by our: memories, values, beliefs, interests, past experience, prejudices, expectations, and attitudes. One of the stronger filters, and potential barriers to good communication, is that of our own assumptions.


Although these filters are within us, we are often blind to them. Successful financial advisors develop the ability to become conscious of these blind spots. This is an important skill, as misunderstanding of what your clients want, expect, or desire can lead to serious consequences.


Assumptions are not inherently wrong. We all make assumptions based upon our intuition, or some of the factors listed above. The problem comes into play when we jump straight to our assumptions, only to discover (later) that the assumption is wrong. And sometimes we never realize that we are wrong because an assumption has such a strong hold on us.


By the way, this topic is inspired by a thoughtful post that I saw the other day on the Fierce Conversations blog, entitled, “Don’t Assume, Ask!”


What follows is a simple, two-step model that they suggest to check your assumptions:


  1. Assess Your Beliefs. Step back and really dig into why you believe what you do about a person or situation. Where is that assumption coming from -- a past experience? A personal opinion? A gut feeling? Explore that. That’s because casting aside assumptions, or understanding where they come from, is the only way to truly enter into situations in an authentic and grounded fashion.


  1. Ask Questions First. Questioning is the antithesis of assuming. It is about being open and curious, rather than passing judgment. When in doubt about where a person is coming from, ask. Come into the situation with a clean slate and genuine desire to be informed, with a sense of curiosity. It is the most respectful route to creating a deeper understanding of other driving factors you may not be aware of. And when the table is turned, you will appreciate the same treatment.


Financial advisors who can get to the heart of their client’s “truth” have a huge advantage in developing relationships based upon trust and complete understanding. For advisors, having clients who are able to say, “My financial advisor really, really understands me like few others” is the one of the highest possible compliments. 

Getting clarity on what your clients' really want is greatly aided by checking your assumptions at the door.


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Topics: Client Engagement