Sometimes when dealing with someone you consider an expert, it may seem overwhelming to question what they are telling you—especially when that person is your financial advisor. However, we are all human and make mistakes. Questioning can lead to many great discussions and help keep communication channels open. So how do you properly question your advisor without coming across the wrong way?
I actually experienced this very thing recently. A client of mine stopped me in the middle of our discussion and said, “Justin did you just say…,” And then he went on to describe a what he thought he heard. Slightly confounded, I thought about how my words possibly ended up misconstrued. I responded with, “I don’t believe I said that, but if I did I was in error. And I appreciate you raising the question.”
Actually per his request, for this particular conversation, we recorded it and listened back to my response.
In the course of a meeting, a great deal of information is disclosed. Often it can be extremely technical in nature. Whenever we’re dealing with assumptions or projections, or law or taxes or investments, it can quickly take a very complicated turn in that type of conversation.
In my experience, not everyone is great at catching ALL of the data. Very few clients take notes. (That is something I would highly recommend they do.) Due to all of these factors, one problem I notice is many actually struggle with knowing how to even ask questions. So with all that said, it’s not uncommon for someone to hear something amiss, which in turn leads to a misunderstanding. You think you heard something the planner said, but they actually meant something else.
With the onslaught of technological advances, according to Microsoft, our attention span is dropping. In 2000 it was about 12 seconds. Now, the average person’s attention span is eight seconds—shorter than that of goldfish which apparently can focus for a full nine seconds. So with that said, and if you’re still reading this blog, you can see how easy it is for someone’s mind to wander in a meeting that takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour—especially one where a significant amount of information is discussed and exchanged. You can quickly lose people once you start talking technical information.
Knowing that communication in and of itself is problematic, it can be hard to interpret what someone is saying. So here are two tips for improving communications between you and your advisor.
I think my client questioned in the best way possible. Instead of just assuming what he heard was the statement that came out of my mouth, he stopped me and asked for clarification. He started by repeating the statement as he heard it. Then he went on to ask if it meant what he thought. I believe following this two-step process is one of best ways to communicate with your advisor. That gives the advisor or person you’re communicating with time to gain their composure, referencing what they actually meant during the conversation.
Another way I’ve heard a client question me is by asking me to rephrase something for them again. I myself have experienced needing someone to give a more clear and detailed explanation of what they mean. I may think I understand something, but if there is a hint of confusion on my part, I’ll ask them to rephrase what they just said. When someone poses that question to me I am not offended. Obviously, they are trying to properly address the situation and want to be certain of what they heard. In fact, I believe it actually shows that you’re intently trying to understand what they are trying to communicate. So if you’re talking about something very technical it gives you a chance to restate something so that you convey it how you meant.
So while clear communication is an easy concept to grasp, the reality is communication is more of an arduous task to achieve than we might want to admit. That is why it is important to ask questions. As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ in Knoxville, TN, I want clients to be able to effectively communicate with me. In our office, we recap meetings. An email is sent out to all and parties involved covering the topics we discussed so that everyone is on the same page. You can’t meet your goals if you aren’t heading in the same direction. So ask questions and make sure you are getting clear and concise answers.
And if you have questions about this post, please feel free to contact me!