We live in a time when expressing an opinion and having an audience is as nearby as a cellphone.
We can always have lots of people agreeing with us, in fact – algorithms for social media, such as Facebook, guarantee that we will find our very own choir to preach to.
It makes us feel better to know others share our opinion; it makes us feel smarter, too.
If that is not enough, we get immediate gratification in the forms of likes, share, and retweets to make us feel bigger and more important than we really are. If someone disagrees (respectfully, or not) we can fight them or block them – depending on how we feel that day.
But does this make us better, or just smug?
For someone in the position of advising clients – this can be dangerous. Advisors can lose touch with what clients really need – which is first and foremost to be heard and understood.
A good advisor is like a doctor who cobbles together all the vague symptoms to get at what the real issues are. It requires not latching on to an answer prematurely (like before questions have been asked).
Yes, sometimes things are fairly obvious and the course of action is straight-forward. But, many times there are other fears, issues and concerns that are being expressed very subtly; and only a still mouth and focused ear can zero in on these details.
I had the pleasure of sitting on a panel to discuss deepening client relations. The moderator was quite versed in social media, and we spent a lot of time discussing how to get more followers. To be honest, that part of the discussion was not a place for me to add value.
While I use various social media platforms, that is not how I go deeper with my clients. It is how others might find me and read my content.
My content (my blog) comes from what I hear, over and over from people too embarrassed, ashamed or nervous to share it with others. It comes from walks I have walked (willingly and unwillingly). In short, I try to share things I wished I had known, things that at times have baffled me or intimidated me — and continue to frustrate others.
When I was in college I had a lucrative side-job tutoring college prep kids. Majoring in English, I mistakenly thought that writing would be a subject I would enjoy tutoring. It turns out that the subjects I understood the best were like my ability to ride a bike – I had my balance, but couldn’t explain how others could find theirs. It was hard to articulate what I intuitively knew.
I discovered my greatest talent was communicating subjects that had once challenged me (trigonometry and calculus, anyone?). I understood what was confusing about the subject matter; and, most important, I had slogged my way out of the maze.
I liked putting others at ease so they could stop being self-conscious and learn. Having found my way out, I delighted in giving others their chance to get on secure ground. It energized me more than when I had rescued myself.
That is how an English major ended up an advisor.
My best clients are not the ones that want to talk about their rates of return. They want to feel more in control of where they are headed. They want to understand:
- Why some of their fears are unwarranted (like worrying that an Index fund will go to 0);
- Why some of their ideas are speculative (buying that “sure thing” marijuana stock);
- What they can control (i.e., how much they invest, how long they stay invested, keeping their fees low, minimizing taxes, letting compound interest work its magic, and not selling when the market dips – but buying low, instead); and
- Why they are not abnormal in their worries or ignorance (many are in the same boat).
I’m not interested in voicing my opinion to prove I know something; I’d much rather use my experiences to show others that I’ve been there, I understand, and I want to help them find some financial peace.
You can go ahead and tweet that.