Advisers: It's time to listen up

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Speaking at a recent financial adviser communication workshop, Claudio O. Pannunzio president and founder of US-based i-Impact Group said every client interaction provides the perfect opportunity for advisers to test their ability to be fully engaged and listen mindfully.

The practice of listening should not be employed only in situations of high distress or uncertainty in the financial markets, but be the foundation of the client-adviser relationship.

Listening is a vital skill for advisers and one of the core and most misunderstood characteristics about listening is that it is not a passive but, rather, a very active effort that requires intention and focus,” said Pannunzio.

“An old Zen proverb goes like this, “When walking, walk. When eating, eat.” In other words, be mindful and give your whole attention to the task you’re carrying out”.

Listening is one of the hardest things for a human being to master.  Many people experience unconscious barriers to good listening that prevent them from clearly recognizing when they are not listening.

Advisers that give genuine and undivided attention will induce clients to confide more deeply and open their hearts to offer precious personal information thus enabling the creation of a more effective financial or protection strategy that will fully reflect and take into account their emotions, desires and aspirations.

Pannunzio said, “Almost half a century ago, author James Nathan Miller made an interesting observation, 'Conversation in the U.S. is a competitive exercise in which the first person to draw a breath is declared the listener'”.

“Don’t let this quote be the accurate description of your approach to client communication.  But, most important, master the art of mindful listening to enhance your professional image and make a difference in your life and those of your clients."

Dianne Schilling has 10 tips for ensuring your listening skills are up to scratch:

  1. Face the speaker and maintain eye contact
  2. Be attentive but relaxed
  3. Keep an open mind
  4. Listen to the words and try to picture what the speaker is saying
  5. Don’t interrupt and don’t impose your “solutions”
  6. Wait for the speaker to pause to ask clarifying questions
  7. Ask questions only to ensure understanding
  8. Try to feel what the speaker is feeling
  9. Give the speaker regular feedback
  10. Pay attention to what isn’t said—to nonverbal cues