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Category Archives for "Advising the Advisors"

Apr 08

Advisors: 4 Steps to Reduce Stress

By Dr. Jack Singer | Advising the Advisors , Stress Management

The foundation of stress is not an event, such as dealing with an angry client, having difficulty with your prospecting calls, or watching the market tank unexpectedly. It is your “self-talk” about each event that either causes stress or doesn’t.  These “self-talk” habits are part of what I call your “internal critic.”

Your “internal critic” is that little voice within that spews out an average of 55,000 words per day, 77% of which are negative, self-defeating messages. Current cognitive psychology research shows that self-limiting, negative and pessimistic thoughts inhibit your success because they undermine your self-confidence.

The negative messages that pass through your mind immediately lead to muscle tightening, rapid breathing, and perspiring. These physiological responses are perceived as “stress,” so the more we allow these self-limiting thoughts to continue unabated, the more stress we suffer.

The wisdom about how critical our inner thoughts and beliefs about events are to our well-being has been around for centuries.  The Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “Men are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of them.”  In Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote: “There’s nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Advisors need resiliency skills to counter the self-doubt and lack of confidence they frequently experience. It’s one thing to recognize that you are producing stress by worrisome, anxiety-producing thoughts, but how do you avoid doing it?

The first step is to stop the negative thought as soon as you recognize it. A trick that works is wearing a rubber band and snapping away whenever you catch yourself beginning one of your habitual negative thinking habits.

Next, ask yourself some key questions about that thought, such as, “Do I have any evidence that I won’t be able to control my client’s rampage?” “What can I do differently this time?” “Can I use ‘active listening’ to focus on his emotions and concerns, rather than justifying my recommendations in a defensive manner?” “Can I assert myself with this client and not worry about losing him?”

Now give yourself positive descriptions about who you are.  For example, tell yourself that you have helped many clients and their families to successfully manage their wealth through many market fluctuations and you can do so with this client as well.

Finally, take a series of slow, deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth, until you feel calmer.  Simultaneously, visualize yourself feeling relief after having the upcoming conversation.

Practicing these simple techniques will help you overcome the negative thinking habits that cause the bulk of your stress.

You may, indeed, be a wonderful financial advisor, but that doesn’t mean you can please every client.  If a client is a constant thorn in your side, perhaps it’s time to refer him elsewhere or recommend that he move on. The income you give up is not worth the constant aggravation he causes you and your peace of mind is worth more than the problems this client presents.  Being calmer will ultimately result in you making better decisions for your clients,  and in doing so, that lost income will quickly be replaced.

Apr 01

Solutions for the Stress of Wealth Management

By Dr. Jack Singer | Advising the Advisors

Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent annually because of stress: stress-related medical insurance claims; workers’ compensation benefits; reduced productivity and so on.

UNDERSTAND THE SOURCE

Feelings of stress, including the symptoms mentioned above, are not directly caused by the necessity to make cold calls or generate referrals, by market fluctuations and disgruntled clients or by fiduciary and compliance hassles. These situations may invite you to feel stressed, but they do not cause stress.

Here is an example: I was booked to be the opening general session speaker for an important financial advisor’s conference. After landing at the first airport for a transfer, a storm moved into the area, grounding all flights for the remainder of the day. It became clear that I would be able to get to the conference in time to open the next morning.

When I learned the flight was cancelled (the negative event), I had a choice regarding what I could say to myself. One option was: “Oh, that’s just great…now I won’t make the meeting, everyone is there expecting a rousing keynote, they’ll be disappointed and the meeting planner for the conference will be so angry at me that she’ll never book me to conduct a program again.”

Such a negative, self-defeating statement would immediately activate the nervous system necessary to deal with life-threatening situations. My brain would conclude that I was in an emergency and my body would react accordingly. My blood pressure would rise, my anxiety spike, and my behavior might become irrational…all resulting from my worried perception of a situation over which I had no control.

POSITIVE ‘SELF-TALK’

It is important to remember that you do have control over your self-talk. Although we are creatures of habit, we can learn to change any habit that causes stress for us.

Suppose that when I learned that the flight was cancelled, I told myself the following: “It is what it is! This is really unfortunate and I feel badly that I will not be there on time, but it is absolutely beyond my control. I will phone the meeting planner right away and see if she would like me to find a substitute speaker who is based in the city where the conference is being held.”

I could also have suggested postponing my keynote until the last day of the conference or even doing the keynote via Skype.

Consider this possibly stressful situation: You get a message from your assistant that your least favorite client is angry about how poorly the last product/equity you recommended is doing in the current, downward market and he wants you to call him as soon as possible.

This potentially negative event does not have to be stressful, depending on the self-talk in which you engage. If say to yourself: “I hate it when this client gets angry whenever the market dips and he blames me. I would like to dump him and suggest he find another advisor.” Just imagine how your stress and anxiety will spike.

But, you have choices. You could tell yourself that you will use active listening skills to allow the client to vent, you will empathize with his frustration, and once he is calm, you will remind him how you went over the risks with him when he purchased the product/equity and that this dip in the market is like all past dips–temporary. You’ll explain to him that your overall strategy in helping him manage and expand his wealth takes these unpredictable market dips into account and the strategy is still viable. Gently point out to him that patience will prove to be his most valuable learned skill, etc.

Using this technique you can convince yourself that, although you still wish that you didn’t have to deal with this client, you have dealt successfully with him before and you will so once again.

Ulitmately, the amount of stress you feel is up to you, isn’t it? Will you listen to the rational, positive voice in your head, or will you fall prey to the irrational, negative, “Internal Critic”? The choice determines your stress level and the choice is always yours!

Mar 25

Financial Advisors: Recognize Distorted Thinking Habits

By Dr. Jack Singer | Advising the Advisors

Recently I discussed the foundation of all stress, mood and attitude issues is your “Internal Critic,” that little voice in your head that you listen to hundreds of times each day. Sadly, most of us allow negative, self-defeating, distorted thoughts to interfere with our work every day—unless we become aware of our thinking habits and take charge of them.

As Dr. David Burns, a pioneer in the field of Cognitive Therapy, puts it: “If you want to break out of a bad mood, you must first understand that every type of negative feeling results from a specific kind of negative thought.” Left unchallenged, the “Internal Critic” and its distorted thought patterns can quickly lead to feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness.

Learning about the thinking patterns that you employ whenever you encounter difficult or challenging events is the first step in making life-altering changes in your thinking. This is a critical first step in changing the thinking habits that lead to depression, anxiety, and feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. Here are five examples of distorted thinking habits that advisors commonly face:

1. All or Nothing

“If I can’t make money for all of my clients, all of the time, despite market fluctuations, I feel like a failure.”

These thoughts are distorted because you look at your world as strictly black or white, good or bad. Such thinking often involves attempting to be perfect, which is obviously impossible.

2. Mind Reading

“My manager has probably lost faith in me because I haven’t landed the number of new clients that he expected this month.”

Mind reading is a very common thinking habit. You conclude that somehow you have an ESP-like understanding of what people are feeling and thinking about you. Even though you have no real evidence or proof that these people are having these thoughts or feelings about you, you just “feel” it, so you conclude it must be true.

3. Mental Filter

“Even though my performance review was positive across the board, my manager said I do need to improve my customer service skills when I am on the phone with clients. He must be disappointed in me.”

This form of distorted thinking involves having tunnel vision when it comes to positives in your life. You can have ten positive things said about you or your performance, but you dwell only on the single negative comment, as if the positives count for nothing. (The example above also involves the mind reading distortion.)

4. Magnification

“I must be a terrible advisor because the product I recommended for my client lost seven per cent of its value in a week. I made a huge mistake, I feel awful and I wouldn’t blame the client if he is disgusted. I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes his business elsewhere.”

In this kind of distorted thinking habit, you blow things out of perspective and dramatically intensify what is actually happening. You use dramatic descriptions, such as terrible, awful, huge and disgusted to describe situations and outcomes that are rarely that critical.

5. Catastrophising or Fortune-Telling

“What if I continue to get turned down in my cold calling? I will fail as an advisor, and since I don’t have another career I’d like to pursue, I’ll become a failure as a husband and provider for my family.”

Fortune-telling is predicting dramatically negative things happening, as if you have absolutely no control over them and your fate is sealed. A clue to this habit is the use of “what ifs” You take a situation, such as a week full of rejections from your cold calls, and blow this out of proportion by assuming that a disastrous outcome is on its way. You come to expect a catastrophic outcome, as if you have a crystal ball to look into the future and you usually expect that the outcome will be negative.

Mar 18

Do Advisors, Clients Suffer From PTSD?

By Dr. Jack Singer | Advising the Advisors , Stress Management

When we think about post-traumatic stress disorder, we typically envision combat, tornadoes, and hurricanes. But PTSD is not limited to life-threatening events. Events threatening financial security (and even career-security) can be very traumatic.

A recent study reported in Health & Social Work examined the risk of PTSD associated with sudden and dramatic personal financial loss. The authors conducted a survey of 173 Madoff victims and found that 58% met the criteria for the PTSD diagnosis, 61% acknowledged high levels of anxiety, 58% were depressed and 34% had health-related issues. Moreover, 90% of these victims felt a substantial loss of confidence in any financial institutions.

In short, severe economic trauma can lead to PTSD.

We know from Dr. Abraham Maslow that when people have their security threatened through any event, all of their confidence and self-esteem can be destroyed, and they then focus all of their attention on searching for recovery. Certainly, this holds for both clients and financial advisors, when their financial security is undermined.

A study of the emotional well-being of financial advisors during the 2008 financial crisis (documented in the May, 2013 Journal of Financial Therapy), showed that 93% reported medium to high stress levels and 39% of the advisors reported stress symptoms at levels considered to be diagnostic of PTSD. In the case of advisors, it was not only the threat to the security of their careers, but the threat to their own portfolios, as well. After all, in an ideal world, advisors basically make the same financial decisions and use the same strategies with regard to their own portfolios, as they would make for their clients’.

So, many advisors suffered the double whammy of major losses in both their clients’ portfolios and in their own portfolios. Added to this stress, is getting bombarded with calls from frightened, disgruntled and hostile clients, who blame the advisor for not having seen this coming.

Diagnosing PTSD

The manual for diagnosing emotional and mental syndromes is the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual IV-TR. Diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder include being confronted with an event, where ones’ response involves intense fear and helplessness. In addition, recurrent and obsessively distressing thoughts about the event persist and can become all consuming. It is easy to understand advisor’s fearing the collapse and the domino effects, and feeling helpless since they obviously have no control over such events.

People suffering from PTSD feel as if the traumatic event is still occurring or will reoccur and the psychological distress intensifies at exposure to external cues that resemble any aspect of the traumatic event. So, the traumatized advisor comes to the office each day, dreading watching the market fluctuations and even hearing their phone ring.

In order to reach the specific clinical criteria of PTSD, the symptoms must persist for at least one month, and at least two of the following specific symptoms must be present:

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Irritability and angry outbursts
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Exaggerated startle response

It is common for PTSD sufferers to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollection of the trauma, so avoiding the office and looking for a career change is a common outcome of PTSD. In addition, the traumatized advisor may avoid contacting clients, anticipating a negative, hostile conversation. I have spoken to many advisors, who, when they are stressed, simply avoid coming into the office or call in sick.

In Australia, for example, when the government imposed fee-for-service demands on advisors, removing the traditional commission based services, a large percentage of advisors panicked and looked for new careers. If the thought of telling clients that they were moving to a fee-for-service status frightened advisors, imagine the huge impact of the economic collapse of 2008 and the anticipation of future collapses. Many advisors began to question whether they could continue to work in a profession where they have the huge fiduciary responsibility of safeguarding their clients’ family savings; moreover, making midlife career changes is also traumatic, so many advisors facing these decisions felt trapped.

Mar 11

How Advisors Can Avoid Fear of Failure

By Dr. Jack Singer | Advising the Advisors , Self Improvement

In a recent post I talked about how Joe Flacco avoided the temptation to feel like an imposter in the 2013 Super Bowl. Despite few pundits giving the Ravens a chance in the game, and most of the attention focusing on the 49ers and their rookie quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, Flacco overcame any concerns that he did not belong on that stage. Any hint at feeling like an “imposter” disappeared when he scored his first touchdown against the 49ers.

“Imposter Fear” occurs when self-doubt creeps into ones’ psyche and rapidly undermines self-confidence.

As an example, I worked with an NFL quarterback who complained that he deserved to start and he was frustrated with his back-up role. When he was suddenly thrust into a starters role during a game because of an injury to the starting quarterback, he panicked and began to worry about embarrassing himself, his family and ultimately his team.

Here was a man whose goal was to be a starting quarterback in the NFL, but he had never dealt with the fact that underneath the façade of confidence was a frightened athlete, worried about whether he really had what it takes to start in the NFL. This man felt like an imposter—he looked great in practice, he was in great physical condition, he looked sharp in his uniform, but he felt as if he couldn’t back up his bravado and then he fell apart when given the opportunity. Clearly, this young man fell victim to the “Imposter Fear.”

Example number two: I worked with a financial advisor who was a very successful business major in college and he came into his interview with a brokerage firm with superb confidence. He had no problem getting hired. His confidence continued to grow, as he glided through the training program. In simulated training situations, he seemed confident and ready to go. But, when his manager ultimately tasked him to make cold calls to attract new clients, he took every hang-up and “no thank you” as a personal rejection, lost his confidence and it wasn’t long before he was suffering from what is called “telephobia,” or severe sales call reluctance (a subject I will address in a future article in this magazine).

This, of course, ate away at his confidence and he feared even calling his current clients, worried about not being able to address their questions and concerns about the market and the products he had recommended. He began to question whether this was a career path in which he could thrive. He, too, became another victim of “Imposter Fear.”

Certainly, Flacco, like most premier NFL quarterbacks, must have gone through the same doubts during or after games in which his performance suffered. But, how did he stay optimistic, ward off the fear of failing, and push through mental obstacles to ultimately win the Super Bowl?

Understand the origins of your “imposter fear.” Like professional football players, most financial advisors maintain an external persona of confidence, but if advisors are honest with themselves, many insecurities –including avoiding contacting aggressive clients during market collapses, or fearing that they will look weak if they can’t think quickly on their feet when challenged by their clients—linger beneath the surface. Such doubts raise their anxiety level every time they come to the office, especially on days the market is tanking.

Like most fears, the “imposter fear” is based on false beliefs; in this case the belief that you are really not as competent as you appear. Like most fears, “imposter fear” is learned. We are not hot wired with such a fear. And, any fear that is learned, can be un-learned! The best way to eradicate any fear is to begin by understanding the distorted thinking that causes it in the first place.

Most fears are unwarranted and irrational, but the emotions surrounding them are certainly powerful.

The late Zig Ziglar, world renowned motivational speaker, captured the essence of this when he defined F.E.A.R. as “False Evidence Appearing Real.” You see, we all have experienced distorting the reality of events and situations that take place in our lives and it’s that distortion that causes our emotions–not the events themselves. The distortion comes from our perceptions of the events and those perceptions are based on the self-talk habits that we have developed over the years. So, the key to all of our emotions is our inner dialogue about events that take place in our lives each day. And…the key to mastering your emotions and overcoming fears such as the “Imposter Fear,” is having insight into your inner dialogue patterns and how to modify them. In fact, teaching clients to understand their self-talk habits and how to modify them is the essence of the most powerful form of psychotherapy in use today…Cognitive/Behavioral Therapy.

As an example, let’s say that one morning, your assistant calls you to inform you that one of your clients left a very angry message and he wants you to call him as soon as you arrive at the office. This event does not cause your resultant emotion(s). What does cause your emotion is the internal message you give to yourself about the situation. You might say something like this to yourself after speaking with your assistant: “Oh, no, he’s going to complain about that new equity I purchased for him last week because it has lost a good portion of it’s value with the way the market has tanked in the last few days. I don’t want to feel like a teenager being chastised by his father. How can I avoid this call?”

If you fill your head with such negative, fear producing self-talk, your anxiety level will elevate dramatically and a normal response to such anxiety is avoidance…avoidance of the event that you anticipate will cause more anxiety. So you avoid the call or pass it on to someone else, if possible. From this episode, you could feel very vulnerable, and from there it’s easy to develop the infamous “imposter fear.” You beat yourself up with more self-talk about how you’re probably not cut out for this line of work, it’s much too stressful and you lose your confidence and look for an escape.

But…you have choices in terms of your self-talk and resultant beliefs about any situation. For the scenario above, here is an alternative set of thoughts you could have: “This client has an irrational expectation that every product or equity he purchases must increase in value continuously. I have explained to him the risk/benefit ratio many times and he went into this purchase with his eyes open. I will use my active listening skills (another subject I will address in a future article here) to settle him down, like I have done many times before. I feel wonderful about the care I take managing my clients’ wealth and this client’s irrationality is not a reflection on me, my skills or my expertise.”

So, ultimately, it’s not economic or stock market fluctuations that determine how confident or insecure you feel in your profession. It’s not disgruntled clients that determine how anxious you feel. Regardless of the situation, it’s always your “self talk” about these issues that determines whether you will thrive or struggle during difficult times. That little voice in your head is what I call your “internal critic,” and that critic is filled with negative, pessimistic, self-defeating and distorted thoughts.

Mar 04

Creating a Game Plan for Success to Conquer Self-Doubt

By Dr. Jack Singer | Advising the Advisors , Confidence

The best way to eradicate fear is to begin by understanding the distorted thinking that causes it to appear in the first place.

“Imposter Fear” is based on false beliefs; believing that you are really not as competent as you appear to others and it’s only a matter of time before your incompetence is uncovered for all to see. “Imposter Fear” is a learned response to events and situations that you encounter in your job and it can lead you to feeling overwhelmed with anxiety. For a financial advisor, unpredictable stock market fluctuations, hostile calls from clients, being responsible for managing clients’ retirement nest eggs, overwhelming paperwork, and compliance/fiduciary issues are events and situations that potentially could cause such a fear. The key word here is “could,” because fear and anxiety do not have to result from dealing with such situations.

Ultimately, it’s not economic or stock market fluctuations that determine how confident or insecure you feel in your profession. It’s not dealing with disgruntled clients that determines how anxious you feel. Instead, it’s always your “self talk” about these issues that determines whether you will thrive or struggle during difficult times.

The culprit is your “internal critic.” Your “self-talk” is that little voice in your head, which I call your “internal critic,” and when that voice is filled with negative, pessimistic, self-defeating and distorted thoughts, insecurity and fear build within you. That little voice spews out thoughts which contain an average of 55,000 words per day, and studies show that for many of us, up to 77% of those thoughts are negative, self-defeating messages. Examples of such fear producing self-talk are, “My manager is difficult to deal with, and I will always have problems with him,” or “I can’t please this client because he constantly asks difficult questions. I wish I could get rid of him!”

The wisdom about how our inner thoughts and beliefs about events are critical determinants of our well-being has been proposed by scholars for centuries. The Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “Men are disturbed not my things, but by the views which they take of them.” In Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote, “There’s nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Famous psychoanalyst, Alfred Adler put it simply: “We are influenced not by the facts, but by our interpretation of the facts.”

Researcher Shad Helmstedder spent his career studying the impact of negative thinking on both our fears and emotions. He concluded that, “All of us have collected thoughts and beliefs and ideas about ourselves that weigh us down and hold us back from reaching so many of the opportunities that life holds in store for us.” By repeating negative beliefs and ideas, we negatively program our sub-conscious minds and undermine our confidence.

How to take charge of your “internal critic.” We now know that our “internal critic” consists of persistent patterns of negative, self-defeating thoughts that we habitually employ whenever we encounter difficult situations or events. So, as noted above, in the work life of the advisor there are daily situations that are unpredictable and which can lead to self-defeating thinking. However, once you learn how to modify and control your negative thinking, you will take charge of your goal to be the most influential and powerful advisor you can be to your clients.

How do advisors know when they are engaging in negative, anxiety provoking thoughts? There are key words and phrases that trigger negative thoughts: Examples of such trigger phrases are: “What if . . .,” “I hope I don’t . . .” “I should have said . . .” “I can’t . . .” “I always have problems with . . .” “This client is impossible…” “If I can do this…” “Maybe this would be best…”“I feel overwhelmed because…” “I will never be able to satisfy…” and “I’ll bet he is just trying to annoy me because…” Each of these triggers leads to negative emotions.

The road to changing these patterns begins by keeping a notebook next to you at your desk and every time you catch yourself using one of these trigger phrases, simply write it down. In a week you will clearly see the negative thinking patterns in which you engage. Be conscientious and write them all down. People are eleven times more likely to change a habit it if they write it down (rather than just thinking about it), so don’t skip recording any of these trigger examples.

Below is an easy-to-learn, five-step game plan for eradicating these triggers and the unfortunate emotions that follow. Just like a world champion athlete, this is how you develop mental toughness:

Game Plan Step 1: Once you recognize the specific trigger phrases that you tend to use, you can stop those phrases dead in their tracks. Put on a loosely fitting rubber band on your wrist and every time you catch yourself beginning a negative, self-defeating thought (such as, “What if I don’t know how to answer my client’s question?”), snap that rubber band, while telling yourself (with gusto) to “stop this silly thinking!”

Game Plan Step 2: Take a deep, calming breath, in through your nose slowly and deeply, holding it to the count of four, then exhale completely from your mouth, to the count of seven, pushing out every last bit of air. Repeat this a few times and you will quickly dissolve away anxiety and experience relaxing sensations.

Game Plan Step 3: Challenge every negative thought with questions, such as “Do I really have any evidence that what I’m afraid will happen, will actually happen or am I simply anticipating the worst?” Just because I have a scary thought doesn’t mean it has to play out that way. Why not visualize myself calmly handling this situation and see how relieved I will be when I accomplish that?”

Once you challenge your negative, pessimistic thoughts and change your thinking to more realistic ideas, you will recognize that most of your fears are just fabrications of the worst case scenario and you really do have more control over your situation then you ever gave yourself credit for.

Game Plan Step 4: Remind yourself of your identity statement. An “identity statement,” is a complimentary description about the value you bring to your clients and the goal of having such a statement in mind is to boost your confidence whenever you doubt yourself. For example, “I am a very successful advisor. In my career, I have overcome many obstacles and helped my clients to successfully navigate economic roller coasters. I am proud that I have helped many families to preserve and enhance their wealth and my success is not based on having to be perfect.” Repeat this statement until you strongly believe in yourself and your skills.

Game Plan Step 5: You anchor this mental toughness routine by once again taking a deep, calming breath, in through your nose slowly and deeply, holding it to the count of four, then exhale completely from your mouth, to the count of seven, pushing out every last bit of air. Once again, repeat this a few times and you will quickly dissolve away anxiety and will produce relaxation.

This is the same five-step mental toughness game plan that I teach to professional and world champion athletes. I don’t know if Joe Flacco employed this strategy every time he tried to overcome anxiety, fears and doubts, but I do know that if you embrace this strategy consistently, you will maintain the mindset of a CHAMPION ADVISOR!

Feb 18

Add the TRIUMPHS Model to Your Advisor Skills Repertoire

By Dr. Jack Singer | Advising the Advisors , Practice Management

Consistently Grow Your Book of Business

Scott has been doing well in his financial advising career for many years. He understands how to how follow up on leads and referrals and how to offer excellent service to his clients. Yet, he’s amazed at how much more successful his colleague, Michael, is, when Scott puts much more time and sweat into his work than Michael seems to. Michael’s book of business and new referrals is growing much faster than Scott’s. What is missing in Scott’s approach?

The key difference between Scott and Michael’s approaches is the fact that Michael has learned to be an “active listener.” He uses the T.R.I.U.M.P.H.S. model to help him maximize his client services, and even when he is not dealing with clients, it is a powerful technique that helps him communicate effectively with his wife and teenagers,

Here are the components of client T.R.I.U.M.P.H.S.:

[su_dropcap]T[/su_dropcap]Treat your client/customer with respect and value. Developing rapport with the client/prospective client is a crucial first step. Smile, position yourself at the same level (sitting or standing, depending on what the client/customer is doing), and slightly lean toward him, maintaining eye contact. Make sure your cell phone is on silent and you can give undivided attention to the customer. Have your calls put on hold while meeting with the client.

Listen to what the prospective client is saying and don’t shuffle papers or start thinking about your response. Just listen to him. Regardless of what the person asks, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to answer immediately. It’s ok to say, “That’s a great question. Give me a day or so to research our products to find the one that precisely addresses your question.”

Some ongoing and prospective clients can be long-winded, nervously asking a lot of questions, especially regarding expensive investments and products. Cutting him off may lose you the rapport you need to develop. Always give the speaker the courtesy of finishing a point before you interject yours. It’s perfectly fine to take notes so you won’t forget what you wanted to say, while the client is making his points.

[su_dropcap]R[/su_dropcap]Reflect the meaning of what your client is telling you before you actually respond. The best way to understand your client/prospective client is to make sure you are listening carefully and the best way to do that is to reflect or paraphrase what you heard her say before you comment on it. An example is, “What I’m hearing is that you are not certain that this product will serve your needs at this particular time.”

[su_dropcap]I[/su_dropcap]“I statements” are powerful ways to communicate. As you paraphrase and reflect back what the client is saying, you can use “I statements,” which are very powerful. For example, “I am getting the feeling that you are uncomfortable with this product and would like some other options.” For you to start with “You” would be much more threatening to the client. “You don’t like this product?”

It is important to realize that by understanding what the listener is saying, doesn’t mean necessarily agreeing with him. You are simply showing that you are hearing his concerns. Example, “Fred, I hear your concerns because of your last experience with a similar product. Let me get the information you will need to make you feel better about this.” Always acknowledge the speaker and his position before voicing your opinion.

[su_dropcap]U[/su_dropcap]Understand the needs and goals of your client. If you are genuine and sell quality products that will truly satisfy your client’s needs and desires, she will trust you. That includes not selling her the most expensive product if you believe it is not right for her or her family situation. Nothing gains trust more than you being honest with clients.

[su_dropcap]M[/su_dropcap]Monitor the tone and mannerisms of the prospective customer. Body language is so important that studies point out that only a small percentage of what is “heard” by a listener are the words of the speaker. Most of what is “heard” by the listener is tone of voice, smiling, facial expressions, vocal inflections, etc. Watch for all of these indices of your client’s mood and attitude. You might even wait for a pause and make an interpretation of what you are sensing. An example is, “I am feeling as if you believe that I am trying to force you to buy this product. Is that what’s going on in your head, Alice?”

[su_dropcap]P[/su_dropcap]Probe gently and with respect. Your job is to try to understand what your client needs and how you can accommodate those needs. The only way to show people that you have exactly the product to satisfy those needs is to ask gentle questions about their goals and hopes (related to your product). An example is, “If you could have the ideal product to make you feel safe during these economic times, what features would it have to have?”

[su_dropcap]H[/su_dropcap]Help your client feel safe in the conversation. For major purchases, such as insurance policies and annuities, clients need to feel safe discussing ther specific money issues. Gently probing about personal and family situations that affect their pocket book requires them being able to trust you. This entails ensuring confidentiality and showing genuine concern for their needs. If you expect them to share their biggest fears and insecurities, you must focus in on what they’re saying, be sensitive and assure them that your goal is to help them to meet their goals.

[su_dropcap]S[/su_dropcap]Summarize. You’d be amazed at how much you show the speaker that you are listening by frequently summarizing what you just heard. This will also help you to focus and remember what the speaker is telling you. If you have hit the key points in your summary, the speaker will feel validated and closer to you. If you missed key points that he is trying to convey, he can inform you about that at this time. Practice this with friends and family. It’s easy to get the hang of it and it really works!

Developing and sticking to this TRIUMPHS model will surely grow your business consistently!

Feb 18

What Advisors Can Learn from Joe Flacco

By Dr. Jack Singer | Advising the Advisors , Confidence

I don’t know Joe Flacco personally. But I know a thing or two about what it takes to become a champion, as he did by winning the 2013 Super Bowl.

With my 33 years of experience as a professional sports psychologist, I have counseled and trained many professional football players and world champion athletes. They all face challenges, adversities and setbacks during their careers One thing they had in common was that most “imposter fear” – a psychological obstacle that many advisors experience-

Imposter fear occurs when, no matter how much confidence or even swagger an athlete may display to teammates, opponents, coaches, or his fans, self-doubt nags at him, and he worries that he will be exposed as inadequate to the challenges he faces. In Joe Flacco’s case, he was always unheralded, first by entering the NFL out of I-AA Delaware. Pundits wondered if the unassuming Flacco could perform on the big stage of the Super Bowl, and they predicted that in the line of fire he wouldn’t compare to the much ballyhooed quarterback of the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick .

Advisors can also experience “imposter fear” – worrying that their success is owed to luck and somehow they’ve fooled others into believing they are skilled advisors. They believe that it’s only a matter of time before that luck runs out and they are exposed. This is a frightening prospect. They anticipate embarrassment and ultimate failure in their career. This fear of failure causes performance anxiety.

I have helped many athletes overcome their “impostor fear” to consistently perform at their best. The exact same set of skills I teach them can be employed by advisors. I was recently invited to consult with a wealth management firm whose president was concerned about inconsistent performance from a large percentage of his advisors. Moreover, because of the ailing economy and a roller-coaster stock market, his assets under management were declining sharply. [Note: For confidentiality reasons, the name of the firm is not mentioned and the advisor names listed below are not the actual names of my clients]

Following a series of confidential interviews with a sample of advisors in the firm, it became clear to me that many from anxiety, because of the market conditions and because of the somewhat unrealistic their president, but also because they harbored their own internal insecurities. I designed a series of training programs the advisors how to recognize and overcome their fears, maintain an optimistic and proactive approach with their clients, use active listening skills, overcome stress and anxiety related to their job and ultimately lead to their clients directing new referrals to them.

Jan 28

Understanding the Female Market

By Dr. Jack Singer | Advising the Advisors

A recent study by Fidelity Investments found that 70% of widows fire their financial advisor within one year of their spouse’s death.

Why would so many women dismiss the advisor who worked so diligently for their family, in many cases for years? Because they thought the advisor as condescending toward them. The advisor only held meetings with the spouse. In joint meetings, the advisor only addressed the husband, or made no eye contact with the wife, as if she had no say or interest in the financial security of the family. In short, these widows felt overlooked and undervalued, and they had no trust in the advisor.

Besides the host of ethical reasons, there are some very important business reasons why you should never allow any woman client to think of you in this way. Some commonly quoted statistics tell a compelling story:
Women will inherit close to 30 trillion dollars in intergenerational wealth transfers in the coming decades.

  • Because women are likely to outlive their husbands, women will control most of this wealth, plus, they will inherit their parents’ wealth.
  • 57% of college graduates are currently women. Female college graduates are currently in control of more than 60% of the personal wealth in the U.S.
  • 22% of women currently earn more money than their spouse.
  • Women make approximately 80% of their family’s buying decisions.
  • 89% of bank accounts are controlled by women.
  • 28% of homeowners are single women.
  • 45% of the millionaires in the U.S. are women.

In short, women are earning more, inheriting more, and controlling more wealth than ever before. This is a huge market awaiting every financial advisor, if he/she understands some key points about working with female clients.

I recently interviewed a female financial advisor, who has enjoyed a very successful career for more than 20 years. She runs a firm with several other advisors, all of whom are women. This is not a coincidence; it is by design. She only hires females, primarily because she works exclusively with female clients. She decided many years ago that focusing on female clients would be a very smart way to build her career.

When she was in her teens, she observed her mother making virtually none of the financial decisions in the family, almost as if it wasn’t her role. Furthermore, her father rarely shared financial investments, insurance plans or any form of estate planning with her mother. Consequently, when her father died, her mother was frozen with feelings of helplessness, did not understand the details or nuances of her financial situation and felt very depressed and anxious as a result.

As an aside, when I was a psychologist in the U.S. Air Force during the VietNam War, one of my duties was helping the wives and families of servicemen killed, captured or missing in the war. I was shocked at the high percentage of women who had absolutely no idea about any of the financial plans or arrangements that their spouses had prepared before departing for overseas. Most didn’t even know where to find the paperwork or the names of insurance companies or brokerage firms that their spouses worked with.

So, this advisor decided early on that she would find a career to help women, so that her clients would never find themselves in the position her mother was in.

Some male advisors have problems dealing with female clients because they have a general problem dealing with women. Sometimes males have stereotypical views of women and finances, such as “women prefer to leave financial decisions to men,” “women are too emotional and base financial decisions on their emotions at the time,” and “women are impulsive and may make financial decisions they later regret.”

To all the men reading this: If you maintain any of these ideas about women, perhaps working with female clients isnot something you should consider – unless you plan to engage in therapy or group sensitivity sessions about the differences – and similarities – in the sexes.

You’ve probably heard that money problems are one the most significant factors that lead to divorce. Dr. Sonya Britt, an Assistant Professor in the Institute of Financial Planning at Kansas State University collected interview data from 4500 couples who had gone through divorce and the data showed definitively that the #1 factor in causing the divorce was money issues. Many couples exist with money issues as a taboo subject, with women leaving financial decisions to the males in their lives, in order to avoid controversy.

Nov 24

The Manager’s Success Toolbox

By Dr. Jack Singer | Advising the Advisors , Financial Advisors , Stress Management

Managing Interpersonal Conflict in the Workplace

Managing interpersonal conflict in organizations is among the most critical and important skills that employees on all levels of the organization can possess.

Job insecurity, fueled by fears of downsizing, mergers, the unstable economy and an unknown organizational future, produces fertile ground for the development of conflict. Moreover, advances in technology, which often are viewed as threatening, magnify the potential for anger and frustration in the workplace.

Unresolved or insensitively managed conflict negatively impacts productivity and morale. Ultimately, the bottom line is affected. On the other hand, allowing conflict to surface and skillfully resolving it can be a platform for enhancing employee trust, team building and creativity.

The good news is that managers, trainers and human resources directors can easily learn conflict resolution strategies, put them into practice, and teach them to their employees.

The following three-step program for assessing and implementing a conflict resolution program is a proven, successful plan of attack:

STEP 1. EVALUATING CONFLICT MANAGEMENT STYLE

Several self-assessment questionnaires have been developed over the years giving people insight into how they react in typical conflict situations. The insight derived from scoring these questionnaires provides an understanding of what “buttons” get pushed when a person is provoked.

STEP 2. IDENTIFYING CONFLICT MANAGEMENT BEHAVIORS

People resort to their own, idiosyncratic behavioral habits when experiencing conflict with others.

These reactions include:

  • Non-productive behaviors, such as: confronting, dominating, defending, using sarcasm, hostile humor, repressing emotions, insisting on being right, stonewalling, and blaming; .
  • Neutral behaviors, such as: avoiding, cooling off, apologizing, and giving in or backing off to avoid confrontation;
  • Positive behaviors, such as: active listening, empathizing, disarming, inquiring, using “I feel” statements, and recognizing how your internal dialogue impacts your emotional reactions.

The goal is to eliminate negative and neutral behaviors and practice positive confrontation reduction skills until they become new habits. On the average, these skills can be learned in only 21 days of concentrated practice!

STEP 3. LEARNING POWERFUL CONFRONTATION REDUCTION SKILLS

Active Listening. The key to all interpersonal communications is genuine listening, as opposed to defensive listening, where you think about your retort while the other person is talking to you, thus not really listening.

In order to begin to really listen, start by paraphrasing what the other person says in your own words, without judging, agreeing or disagreeing. Listen to and reflect the content, needs and feelings of the other person. For example, if someone is telling you about what he thinks is unfair in the way he is overlooked for a raise, the listener might reply: “It sounds like you believe that we don’t really care about you enough to consider what you have done this year in determining whether to give you a raise.”

Notice that the listener is not agreeing, nor disagreeing with the complainer, simply paraphrasing the words and emotions he believes the complainer is expressing.

Next, ask for feedback to determine whether you interpreted correctly. If you have not, ask for clarification. Continue this process until you are sure that you have heard what the other person is saying and how he or she really feels emotionally. Simply getting clarification in order to be sure you have heard what the complainer is talking about will go a long way toward defusing the negative emotions he is feeling, because he is now feeling respected and listened to.

Once you are certain that you understand the message and feelings expressed by the other person, respond. The other person then listens and paraphrases for you. This process continues until you have both clarified your positions and are certain that the other person also really heard you and understands.

Empathizing. This involves putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and trying to see the world through his or her eyes, taking into account cultural, racial, gender and experiential differences. Remember, empathizing with the complainer is understanding her/his position from their perspective and with the information they have…it is not necessarily agreeing with them.

Example: “I understand that you believe your work product has been as good as Joe Smith’s and he did receive a raise. So you view this as unfair and personal.”

Disarming. The fastest way to defuse an argument is to find some truth in what the other person is saying, even if you do not agree with the basic criticism or complaint. For example, saying “I can understand how you’d feel angry with me since you believe that Joe’s work is no better than yours and I did give him a raise,” acknowledges and validates the angry person’s feelings without actually agreeing with what was said. This opens the door to clarification, feedback and reconciliation.

Inquiring. By asking for clarification of ideas, needs and feelings you signal a feeling of respect and can then work toward mutual understanding and compromise.

“I Feel” Statements. This is a primary skill in interpersonal communications. Expressing yourself with such statements as, “I’m feeling sad and hurt because you believe I am being unfair to you” is much more productive than the accusatory, “Now you’re making me sad and hurt and I don’t like feeling that way.” In the first scenario, you take responsibility for your own feelings and share them; in the second, you escalate the confrontation by blaming and putting the person on the defensive.

In addition, you tell the other person specifically what you need that will make you feel good or what can be done to improve the relationship and avoid further misunderstandings and confrontations.

Example: “I have a list of criteria that are involved in determining when someone is entitled to a raise. You are only looking at one of them when you decide I am being unfair. Let’s discuss how you can improve in the other areas so that you can earn a raise next time.”

Internal Dialogue. The key to analyzing your vulnerability to being provoked into confrontations is to understand how your automatic thoughts, including your assumptions and conclusions, cause every emotional reaction.

Examples of these distortions are: “He shouldn’t keep bugging me about a raise” (using should, must, and have to in judging someone’s actions); “My employees don’t really care about how difficult my job is” (reading your employees’ minds about what they must be thinking and feeling); “Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this job…it’s constant pressure” (catastrophising or fortune telling about what your incompetence or the future; and “I’m must have been stupid for taking this job” (negatively labeling yourself instead of describing your behavior as unfortunate or unproductive).

Once you learn about the distortion habits in your automatic thinking, you can learn how to challenge them and develop more rational, alternative thoughts. The end result is actually dissolving negative emotions and a healthy, more reasonable outlook on every situation in which you find yourself.

Interpersonal conflict is healthy when it brings a rich sharing of ideas, mutual respect and an understanding and appreciation of diverse opinions, needs, and values. Teaching your employees to understand how they traditionally react in conflict situations and how to use confrontation reduction skills leads to greater trust, less stress, more creativity, and can ignite the team. The ultimate benefits are enhanced quantity and quality of products and services!

Oct 15

Become an Inner Winner and Skyrocket Your Sales Performance

By Dr. Jack Singer | Advising the Advisors , Financial Advisors , Sales Professionals

Matt is a sales manager in a large insurance company. Besides making sure that his salespeople can answer questions about their products, Matt trains them to communicate with potential clients, how to get them to realize how his company’s products will be great investments, and how to close a deal. But Matt is befuddled at the poor sales success rates of his sales professionals. Traditional sales training techniques ignore the biggest obstacle to sales success: Not recognizing and taking control of the Internal Critic (the habitual pattern of negative thoughts) that lingers within every salesperson.

Here are four tips that you can use:

1) Understand the warning signs of your Internal Critic at work.

Self-limiting, negative and pessimistic thoughts (self-talk) inhibit your success. Examples are: “What if . . .,” “I hope I don’t . . .” “I should have said . . .” “The client won’t like me if . . .” “I always have problems with . . .” “I probably won’t be able to close this sale,” or “I can’t believe how stupid I was to say that . . .” Negative, messages that pass through your mind immediately lead to muscle tightening, rapid breathing, and perspiring. These physiological responses are perceived as “stress.”

When negative thoughts go through your mind, make a fist (out of view of the prospective customer) to remind you to stop thinking that way. Take a few breaths, relax, and think positively and optimistically. What you believe, you can achieve. Internal self-talk leads to beliefs (positive or negative), and beliefs lead to reactions. You need to believe in your products and in your ability to show customers why they need to purchase that product today. Once you believe in yourself and your products, you are in a much better position to achieve sales success.

2) Give yourself positive affirmations

Start thinking optimistic thoughts about your sales success, as if it’s happening today. When you give yourself positive affirmations and imagine that these things are happening right now, your subconscious mind buys into it.

Here are examples: “I know my products and I will show my customers how these products are perfect for their situation,” I know how to treat people so they will be open to my suggestions,” My self- confidence as a sales person grows each day,” I see myself breaking sales records each month.” List 10 positive affirmations and say each one 10 times in the morning and 10 times in the evening, breathing slowly and visualizing the each affirmation happening now.

3) Visualize sales success before you approach potential customers.

Visualize yourself preparing for the sales call and feeling confident as you enter the room. Visualize the sights and sounds around you as you begin. See the client smiling and nodding in agreement as you show them how your product will serve her insurance and investment needs. Visualize yourself shaking hands with the client, closing the deal, and writing up the order.

4)Show them the power of goal setting.

You are 11 times more likely to reach a goal when you write it down. Write down short and long-term goals that are specific and action-oriented. En- sure the goals are realistic. Next, visualize yourself feeling wonderful once you achieve that goal. Imagine it as if you’ve already achieved the goal. List ways in which you tend to sabotage yourself, and how you’ll stop that behavior.

Becoming an Inner Winner leads to sales success every time!

Oct 08

Consistently Outperform Your Sales Competitors

By Dr. Jack Singer | Advising the Advisors , Sales Professionals

Add the Sales TRIUMPHS Model to Your Selling Skills Repertoire

By Jack Singer, Ph.D.

Susan has been doing well in her insurance sales career for many years. She understands how to prospect, how to follow up on leads and referrals and how to offer excellent customer service. Yet, she’s amazed at how much more successful her colleague, Michael, is, when she puts much more time and sweat into her work than Michael seems to do. She wonders what is missing in her approach.

The key difference between Michael’s and Susan’s approaches is the fact that Michael has trained himself to be an ““active listener.” He uses my sales T.R.I.U.M.P.H.S. model to not only help him maximize his sales deals, but even when he is not “selling” anything, it is a powerful technique that helps him communicate effectively with his wife and teenagers.

This model works wonderfully for virtually any product or service that one is selling.

Here are the components of your sales T.R.I.U.M.P.H.S.:

T Treat your client/customer with respect and value. Developing rapport with the prospective client/customer is a crucial first step. Smile, position yourself at the same level (sitting or standing, depending on what the client/customer is doing), and slightly lean toward him, maintaining eye contact. Make sure your cell phone is on silent and you can give undivided attention to the customer.

Listen to what the prospective customer is saying and don’t shuffle papers or start thinking about your response. Just listen to her. Regardless of what the person asks, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to answer immediately. It’s ok to say, “That’s a great question. Give me a day or so to research our products to find the one that precisely addresses your goals and needs.” Some prospective customers can be long-winded, nervously asking a lot of questions, especially with expensive products. Cutting off a speaker may lose you the rapport you need to develop. Always give the speaker the courtesy of finishing a point before you interject yours. Again, take notes so you won’t forget what you wanted to say.

R Reflect the meaning of what your client is telling you before you actually respond. The best way to understand your prospective customer is to make sure you are listening carefully and the best way to do that is to reflect or paraphrase what you heard him say before you comment on it. An example is, “What I’m hearing is that you are not certain that this particular annuity product will serve your goals and needs.”

I “I statements” are powerful. As you paraphrase and reflect back what the buyer is saying, you can use “I statements,” which are very powerful. For example, “I am getting the feeling that you are uncomfortable with this product and would like some other options.” For you to start with “You” would be much more threatening for the buyer. “You don’t like this product.”?

It is important to realize that by understanding what the listener is saying, doesn’t mean necessarily agreeing with him. You are simply showing that you are hearing his concerns. Example, “Fred, I hear your concerns because of your last experience with a similar annuity product. Let me get the information you will need to make you feel better about this.” Always acknowledge the speaker and his position before voicing your opinion.

U Understand the needs and goals of your client/customer. If you are genuine and sell quality products that will truly satisfy your customer’s needs and desires, the customer will trust you. That includes not selling him the most expensive product if you believe it is not right for him. Nothing gains their trust more than you being honest with him.

M Monitor the tone and mannerisms of the prospective customer. Body language is so important that studies point out that only a small percentage of what is “heard” by a listener are the words of the speaker. Most of what is “heard” by the listener is tone of voice, smiling, facial expressions, vocal inflections, etc. Watch for all of these indices of your customer’s mood and attitude. You might even wait for a pause and make an interpretation of what you are sensing. An example is, “I am getting the feeling as if you believe that I am trying to force you to buy this product. Is that what’s going on in your head, Alice?”

P Probe gently and with respect. Your job is to try to understand what your prospective client/customer needs and how you can accommodate those needs. The only way to show people that you have exactly the product to satisfy those needs is to ask gentle questions about their goals and hopes (related to your product). An example is, “If you could describe the ideal insurance product to give you peace of mind, what would it be like?”

H Help your client feel safe in the conversation. For major purchases, such as insurance policies, clients needs to feel safe discussing her specific money issues. Gently probing about personal and family situations that affect their pocket book requires them being able to trust you. This entails ensuring confidentiality and showing genuine concern for their needs. If you expect them to share their biggest fears and insecurities, you must focus in on what they’re saying, be sensitive and assure them that you will help them to meet their goals.

S Summarize. You’d be amazed at how much you show the speaker you are listening by frequently summarizing what you just heard. This will also help you to focus and remember what the speaker is telling you. If you have hit the key points in your summary, the speaker will feel validated and closer to you. If you missed key points that he is trying to convey, he can inform you about that at this time. Practice this with friends and family. It’s easy to get the hang of it and it really works!

Sticking to this Sales TRIUMPHS model will surely bring you your share of triumphs over your competition!

Please feel free to print this graphic and keep it handy!

Add the Sales TRIUMPHS Model to Your Selling Skills Repertoire

Oct 31

Exploring an Overlooked, Very Lucrative Market Niche – Women! Part 1

By Dr. Jack Singer | Advising the Advisors

Advising the Advisors –  Exploring an Overlooked, Very Lucrative Market Niche-Women! Part 1

By Jack Singer, Ph.D.
Professional Clinical/Sport Psychologist and Professional Speaker/Trainer/Coach for Financial Advisors and Insurance Producers

A recent study by Fidelity Investments found that 70% of widows fire their financial advisor within one year after their spouse dies!  Why would so many women dismiss the advisor who worked so diligently for their family, in many cases, for years?  The answer is enlightening:  They viewed the advisor as condescending toward them, often meeting only with their spouse and even in joint meetings, having eye contact and communication directed primarily at the man, as if they had no say or interest in the financial security of the family.  In short, they feel overlooked and undervalued, leading to a lack of trust in the advisor.

Why should you care about female clients?  Besides the ethical reasons, there are some very important statistics (studies cited and referenced by Holly Buchanan in her book, Selling Financial Services to Women and by Kathleen Burns Kingsbury in her book, How to Give Financial Advice to Women”):

  • Over the next few decades, it’s predicted that women will inherit close to 30 trillion dollars in intergenerational wealth transfers.  Because women are likely to outlive their husbands, women will control most of this wealth, plus, they will inherit their parents’ wealth.
  • 57% of college graduates are currently women. Female college graduates are currently in control of more than 60% of the personal wealth in the U.S.
  •  22% of women currently earn more money than their spouses.
  • Women make approximately 80% of their family’s buying decisions.
  • 89% of bank accounts are controlled by women.
  • 28% of homeowners are single women.
  • 45% of the millionaires in the U.S. are women.
  • In 2009, 40% of private companies were at least 50% owned by women, compared with only 26% of companies in 1997 in that category.  20% of firms with revenue of at least $1million are currently owned by women.

In short, women are earning more, inheriting more, and controlling more wealth than ever before.  This is a huge, untapped niche awaiting every financial advisor, if he/she understands some key points about women’s needs and desires.

Stay tuned for my next installment, where I will discuss why women become disenchanted with their financial advisors and what behaviors you should all practice in order to capture your share of this huge market.

Jul 22

Advising the Advisors – Part V

By Dr. Jack Singer | Advising the Advisors , Financial Advisors , Stress

By Dr. Jack Singer
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Financial Advisor Trainer and Coach

Additional Distorted Thinking Habits for Which Advisors Should Be on the Lookout

Recall that in my last segment, I discussed the thinking patterns in which we frequently engage whenever we encounter difficult or challenging events. And, if our “Internal Critics” are allowed to run rampant, those thinking patterns tend to be self-defeating, negative and pessimistic. Often, these patterns of thinking are irrational expectations and beliefs about ourselves, how others view us, the situation and/or pessimistic predictions about how the situation will turn out. Such habitual thinking patterns exacerbates our stress dramatically and can lead to feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and even worthlessness!

I discussed All or Nothing, Mind-Reading, Mental Filter, Magnification and Catastrophising. In this segment I will discuss Having to be Right, Should Statements, Overgeneralization, Blaming and Emotional Reasoning.

Having to be Right

“ I certainly know much more than my clients do about investing and wealth management. Therefore, if I make a recommendation, it had better be right.”

This form of distorted thinking develops out of insecurity. You are worried about what it says about you if you are ever wrong. Unpredictable downturns in the market can lead to losses for your clients, yet you feel so strongly that you have to be right in your predictions, that you don’t provide the inevitable market fluctuation caveat to them when making recommendations.

You rarely consult with colleagues before making recommendations to clients, believing that shows a weakness about you to both your clients and your colleagues. Consequently, you tend to ignore or discount others’ (especially clients’) opinions, if they disagree with yours. Your mind is closed to other possibilities because you are very threatened by the idea that you could be wrong.

Should Statements

“I never should have made that recommendation. Look how it turned out! I’d better be more careful the next time I make a recommendation or I will surely lose this client.”

If you look carefully, you will also see Catastrophising (Fortune Telling) in this distortion.

People whose thoughts frequently include “ I should…,” “I must…,” or “I’d better…” are making an unconscious assumption that there is a universal list of iron clad “rules” (in addition to the laws of the land and your particular religious commandments) to which we must all adhere, or we will be judged in a negative way. If you break the “rule” (e.g., “I never should have…”), it leads to you having feelings of guilt and incompetence. If someone else breaks the “rule” (e.g., “He never should have…”) it leads to you feeling angry or frustrated.

Although we often regret actions that had unfortunate outcomes and we may occasionally use a phrase such as “I should have,” the continual use of such words leaves no room for innocent mistakes. It smacks of having to be perfect in order to feel good about yourself.

Overgeneralization

“Since I lost money for my client thinking I made a good investment decision, I will probably continue to do so. It seems like every time he asks my advice, I make suggestions that are awful. He’ll probably fire me”

If you look carefully at this string of thoughts, it also involves Catastrophizing (Fortune Telling).

Overgeneralization involves an incident or situation in which you fail to achieve what you desire and you generalize from that situation to an overwhelming series of negative ideas about yourself. You believe that because of this unfortunate incident, it is inevitable that it will be followed by a never-ending pattern of similar unfortunate events.

A tip-off to this kind of thinking pattern is the frequent use of words such as never, always, all, every and none. These absolutes are exaggerations of reality and they are extremely self-defeating.

Blaming

“I’m struggling in my business because I have a bunch of clients who expect me to accurately predict the market. Who do they think I am, anyway, a psychic?”

This is an interesting example of distorted thinking because it is common to find someone or something to blame when you fail to accomplish something important to you. In fact, there may be an advantage to finding an excuse to explain failure, rather than blaming yourself, as if you are hopelessly incompetent. The real problem with the Blaming distortion is when you rarely take responsibility for events that befall you and continuously blame others. Obviously, when this happens you don’t learn from your mistakes.

Emotional Reasoning

“I feel so stupid because I couldn’t answer my client’s complicated question. Since I feel stupid, I’ll probably always struggle with these kinds of questions.”

This example of distorted thinking involves drawing the wrong conclusion, based strictly on your emotions at the time. Because you feel an emotion or have a negative thought, you conclude it must be true. So, if if you make a mistake and describe it as stupid, then you conclude that you are stupid.

If you feel anger after speaking on the phone with a client, you conclude that the client must have done something wrong to you, rather than realizing that your angry emotions may be based on faulty thinking or not having all of the information (such as believing that your client will always be angry at you for not having the answer right away).