Improving Your Empathy and Listening Skills

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Readers,

In the past few weeks, I have received numerous inquiries on how to improve empathy and listening skills for busy advisors. In my workshops this comes up as one of the top obstacles that individual advisors, and those working in teams, face.

The questions I have fielded included:

  • How do I effectively pursue my agenda with a client when I am supposed to focus on listening?
  • How do I capture important ideas when I am staying attentive to what the client is saying? I don’t want to miss important points.
  • What do you do when you really don’t care about what a client is saying? My mind tends to wander.
  • How do I help a team member answer the right question when they don’t seem to be paying enough attention to the conversation?

The answers to these questions and those like them lie in the importance of combining emotional intelligence (EQ) with technical expertise (IQ). It’s easy to study EQ and learn about the components but what does it “look like” when meeting with a prospect or client? Let’s look at the evidence of EQ as it would unfold in a prospect or client meeting.

  1. Check your assumptions at the door. It’s easy for advisors with a great deal of technical knowledge and well-developed intelligence to hear the question they are hoping the prospect or client might ask, and to be ready to answer with what they know is right. I’ve observed hundreds of advisors do this over the years only to have them realize the answer they gave isn’t the question the person was asking. In a profession filled with jargon-filled terms, it is important to clarify, “Before I answer that question, share a bit more with me about what you mean by the word ‘risk’?” as just one example. Be sure your definition isn’t the one you are applying without learning more about how the person asking views the question.