Advising the Advisors – Part III
By Dr. Jack Singer
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Financial Advisor Trainer and Coach
It all Starts with Your “Internal Critic”
Recall that in my last segment, Advising the Advisors – Part 2: Buffer Yourself Against the Real Cause of ALL of Your Stress, I discussed the foundation of all stress, among advisors (and anyone else, for that matter) which is not, events, such as dealing with an angry client, having difficulty with your prospecting calls, or the market tanking unexpectedly. it is your “self-talk” about each event that either causes stress or doesn’t. And your 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 research in the field of Cognitive Psychology shows that self-limiting, negative and pessimistic thoughts (self-talk) inhibit your success because they undermine your self-confidence. Examples are thoughts that begin with variations of the following: “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 tell her . . .”
The “impostor fear,” which I discussed in an earlier segment, and most other fears, are all learned habits. Advisors who fear that they will fail to develop enough business to support their families were not born with that fear; it was learned by repeating negative self-statements for years.
The wisdom about how our inner thoughts and beliefs about events are critical to our well-being has been around 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.”
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 continue unabated, the more stress we suffer. What all advisors need is resiliency skills to counter the self-doubt and lack of confidence they frequently experience.
Overcoming the Internal Critic
It’s one thing to recognize that you are producing stress by worrisome, anxiety-producing thoughts, but how do you avoid doing this during economic downturns and topsy-turvy market fluctuations? 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’ (a subject of an upcoming column) 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?”
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.
You are, indeed, a wonderful financial advisor, but that doesn’t mean you can please every client. Perhaps, if this client is a constant thorn in your side, it’s time to refer him elsewhere or recommend that he move on. The income you will lose is not worth the constant aggravation he causes you. Your peace of mind is not worth the problems this client presents. Being calmer will ultimately result in you making better decisions for your clients, so that the lost income will be quickly replaced.
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 to overcome the negative thinking habits that have caused the bulk of your stress.