Politics, sex and religion. Years ago, it was understood these three topics were off limits at dinner parties. People kept their opinions to themselves. Today, the three topics make headline news and overlap. What do you do when you realize your prospect or client has a different opinion than yours.

Like seeks out like. This can be great when you and your client think the same way. Some advisors have picked a category and made it their niche. Problems develop when you are already doing business (or want to do business) with someone in the other camp.

1. Don’t poke the bear.  If you feel politics will be a tricky subject, do not be the one to bring it up. If you think talking politics might be a problem, the problem doesn’t develop until someone brings it up. Don’t be that person.

2. I hear you. This is an expression that acknowledges their opinion yet does not indicate you are agreeing with them. “I see where you are coming from” gets the same message across. When you disagree with someone, you might not know what to say. These comments respond without agreeing.

3. Respect their opinion. People do not want to be dismissed. If you get them talking, they should spell out how they formed their opinion and the facts behind it. This might be a point of view you never considered. Hear them out, draw them out.

4. An argument isn’t going to get you anywhere. Some people enjoy arguing. They seek out confrontation. It is unlikely arguing will change their opinion. Getting into a shouting match might convince them not to do business with you.

5. Be open-minded. Give them an opportunity to make their point. Why do they feel that way? Draw them out.

6. What is the source of your information? “Where did you hear that?” If you feel they might be misinformed, it is a good idea to try and identify the source of the statements they consider facts. There is a difference between respected publications, anonymous websites and word of mouth. Learning where they get their information opens the door to sharing where you get your information. Each of you might benefit from seeing this bigger picture.

7. Do you share your own opinion? What do your political views have to do with providing good investment advice? These are usually different compartments in the relationship. How the money is made and how it is taxed are different subjects. You can recommend stocks you feel will do well based on certain circumstances. You cannot write tax law. If you feel there will be an issue, you might want to compartmentalize. There are other subjects each of you would consider private. Add this to the list.

8. Seek common ground. Find some areas where you can agree. Both of you want the world to be a better place. You might disagree with the path to reach that objective. You both want your children to get the best education possible. You both want to have comfortable retirements. Finding things you can agree on changes the focus in a positive direction.

9. What investments would do well under the scenario you outlined? This becomes a way to both gauge their level of commitment and determine which of your recommendations would receive the most receptivity. If the scenario they outlined indicates energy prices should go up and your firm is recommending overweighting the energy sector, they have bought into your suggestion. Part of seeking common ground is recognizing both you and the client want the client to make money.

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