A powerful tool some financial advisors may be overlooking in their rush to talk with clients is silence, according to Mary Martin, financial advisor coach and author.

Being willing to be silent allows the advisor to be a different kind of listener and to be open to hearing what the client means, Martin said in an interview.

Martin calls her technique, which she teaches in an eight-week course that earns the graduate 7.5 CFP Board continuing education credits, “mindfulness.” She is about to publish her book, “Mindfulness for Financial Advisors,” which she said is “lovingly subtitled “Humans Being Financial Advisors.” Martin explained that her work is not about behavioral finance because that niche is about the investor, and her work is aimed directly at advisors.

“Mindfulness is about the advisor’s skills and what he or she is capable of bring to the table,” she said. Martin, who is located in Jupiter, Fla., started teaching the course in 2019 and 191 people have graduated, with some people taking the classes multiple times.

Mindfulness requires the advisor to discover his or her assumptions and to actively listen to the client. Being silent is part of that strategy and is practiced during the course she teaches. It also requires advisors to look at themselves to judge their own state of well-being.

“Before I started this, I was told not to do it—people said advisors would not want to go through these exercises,” Martin said. She acknowledges that the approach is not for everyone. “But getting in tune with your own stress levels and your own emotions makes you approach situations differently. The advisors who do this experience their practices differently.

“My book and course are about advisors leading and leveraging with what makes them human. They learn grounding skills and practices to increase their cognitive flexibility, their emotional flexibility and their tolerance for uncertainty, ambiguity and change. These are skills of ‘being,’ as opposed to skills of ‘doing.’

The course is based on science and research and follows a path similar to the study of interpersonal neurobiology. That subject was given the top paper award by the Financial Planning Association in 2020.

“Mindfulness is a practice that cultivates the cognitive and emotional flexibility we need to meet whatever arises in and around us, without getting dysregulated. The powerful byproduct of the practice is that you meet your own humanity, which is like a bridge to the humanity of others,” Martin said in an email.

“It makes it easy and natural to be in a state of compassionate care for others once you've met yourself. This isn't talked about enough because people are (taught to) train your brain for peak performance. But your ability to authentically and easefully connect with others—especially those who are very different from you—comes from having done the work of connecting with yourself,” she said.

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