Stop Talking and Start Listening!

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Stop Talking and Start Listening!

May 20, 2014

by Dan Solin

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In a recent article, I discussed the importance of asking questions. Asking questions, however, will only get you halfway to your destination. It is critically important that you listen carefully to the responses.

As Ernest Hemingway said, “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”

Are you one of those people?

For many years, I fit neatly into the category of a person who did not really listen.

There is a massive disconnect between our perception of ourselves as effective listeners and reality. In one study of more than 8,000 business people, virtually all those surveyed thought they were average or above-average listeners. More objective studies have found that the average person has a listening efficiency rate of a meager 25%.

Listening isn’t always easy

Good listening is surprisingly difficult. This is especially true for advisors. We have an agenda. We have what is known as “asymmetric information,” which means we usually know much more about investments than our clients. We assume prospects come to us because of our superior knowledge and expertise. It is only logical for us to demonstrate our expertise by speaking and not listening.

Listening does not seem very complicated. Don’t be fooled. Really listening to what is being said is an art. You have to train yourself to do it right.

Competitive versus genuine listening

Picture this scenario: An elderly widow comes in to see you. She has inherited $5 million. She doesn’t know how to invest it. She is very unsophisticated, but she has some general ideas about her investment goals, which she explains to you as best she can.

Are you really listening to her? Or are you are figuring out how you are going to respond to what she is saying? The latter is competitive listening. You are pretending to have a genuine interest in her agenda, while your mind is focused on your agenda.

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