Kline: When an advisor says to the client, "Your thinking is critical here and part of what we're going to do together; part of my expertise is to create the conditions for you to think well so that you get the best financial plan," that's a long, long way from psychologist. It's so interesting that the minute we become more human, people race to label us as psychologists. The minute we become interested in what's true for someone and what somebody feels, people want to label us as psychologists. Actually, they should just label us as human beings.

Listening deeply is a reclaiming of our humanity, rather than stepping into professional territory that we don't have expertise in. When advisors are uncomfortable with the touchy-feely aspect of client relationships, all that's happening is that they have begun to do something that training as a financial advisor did not teach them.  

Gluck: What's the third element necessary for creating a thinking environment?

Kline: Ease. People think better when the listener is at ease inside, even if the demands in one's life and general sort of escalation of freneticism in our lives is present. That means that you plan carefully, so that the hour or two hours with a client is structured and unhurried. You're not metaphorically or literally looking at your watch. Not being rushed actually speeds up your thinking. Cultivating ease typically leads to saving time. Whereas our culture seems to reinforce the false idea that to hurry, to be urgent, saves time, it often more increases the time it takes to achieve a good outcome. Ease allows a creative force of attention to activate.

Gluck: We're up to the fourth property of a listening environment. What's next?

Kline: Appreciation. In the presence of appreciation, human beings feel better. Appreciation comes in many forms. One form is the question, "What do you think?" That's a very appreciative thing to say to somebody. Appreciation also comes in the form of respect. So telling someone what you honor about them, what you noticed about them that you think is good, successful or that you respect, that's obviously a kind of appreciation. Criticism, especially disproportionate amounts of criticism, makes thinking conformist or weak.

In the last two years, research about the physiology of appreciation shows that your blood flows better to your brain when you're in the presence of appreciation. The variability and pattern of your heartbeat stabilizes. The cortex is stimulated and thinking is better, the research shows. One study showed that relationships were more successful and longer if you show five times more appreciation than criticism. An advisor can think about all the ways he appreciates a client.

Gluck: Please talk about another characteristic of a listening environment: encouragement.

Kline: This is the giving of courage to the person thinking. It's saying, "Go to the unexplored edge of your thinking." The key is eliminating competition between the thinker and listener, or eliminating competition within a team that's thinking together. [It means] recognizing that, despite its worshipped place in our society, competition between people thinking together leads to one person thinking he is better or the winner in the conversation. This happens so much in teams, and it is destructive to good thinking. The decision that we won't compete with each other, that we will be more interested in an intelligent, good outcome than in who thought of the idea, is critical to good thinking.

The advisor-client relationship, while not usually described this way, is usually one ongoing act of competition in which the advisor shows he is smarter than the client and is seen to have had better answers than the client, and to, in effect, have won. Some advisor offices are even set up to look like something that the client will regard as sort of intimidating and overwhelming-as a statement of superiority of the advisor. Encouragement means avoiding this and providing the opposite of intimidation, giving the thinker courage.

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