It's seamless, relaxed attention. This sort of attention is not in a hurry. It's true to time boundaries that are stated up front, but it is not in a hurry in the time that's given. The advisor learns that this sort of attention is beautiful, and very active. It is a very present and engaged activity. It looks very still, like you're not doing anything. You listen respectfully with profound interest in where the client will go next with his ideas. And then, when the client comes to a pause or an end of a thought, you ask for more. Before asking about topics or offering any information or advice, you can ask, "What more do you want to say about this topic?" When an advisor offers clients this kind of attention, a client may often have more ideas of what needs to go into his financial plan than the advisor.

Gluck: How about overt listening skills-facial expressions and comments to encourage the person you're listening to?

Kline: A client will think better when an advisor keeps her eyes on the eyes of the client. The client may look at all sorts of places. We do that when thinking. But the advisor's eyes should stay on the eyes of the client, unless the advisor almost desperately needs to take a note. The advisor's face needs to say back to the client, "I'm interested. I want to know more about these ideas. I respect you. I am glad to be here with you." When a listener's face sinks into worry, fear or cynicism, it's more difficult for the person speaking to think.

Nodding is a good thing but not as much as most people do. People typically nod the minute the speaker looks at them. Actually, we need to get good at remembering that the quality of our attention itself says, "I'm interested." We don't have to be nodding all the time. Nodding can be interpreted as rushing. It sounds very picky, but it has a big impact. It's also good to minimize saying, "Yes, I understand" or "Um-hmm." Otherwise, you risk drawing a client away from their own thinking and toward your thinking, just because of the way you respond in these physical ways. Finally, when meeting in your office, it's important that you not stay behind your desk, that there be no physical barrier between you and the client.

Gluck: So the occasional nod is OK but saying, "Yeah," or "I agree," or repeating the last couple of words of someone's sentence is not good?

Kline: It should not be excessive or mechanistic. Too much approval can guide a client in a direction. Repeating the last few words that a person used is OK to get someone to keep going. What's better is asking, "What else comes to mind?"

Gluck: Getting back to the ten characteristics of a thinking environment, we discussed attention. What's the next most important element?

Kline: The second one is particularly important in the advisor-client relationship. It's equality. We are taught to believe that the advisor is smarter and more valuable in the exchange with a client, and the advisor is the one with the answers. There is a kind of superiority built in. Clients feel inferior in a way, even though the client is paying.

Now, shift that cultural bias so that the client and advisor see each other as equals, as thinkers, as contributors to the quality of the plan. Yes, of course, the advisor has more information about the technicalities of financial planning. But the client has all the information about his or her life. It's different types of information that they each have, but they are equal as thinkers and contributors. That shift makes a big difference in how both people think together-certainly in how the client thinks.

Gluck: Many advisors see themselves as technicians. They may feel uncomfortable with being so touchy-feely with clients. They may feel like using your techniques will make them armchair psychologists.

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