I was getting ready for a holiday party and a movie was on while I prepared. It was called “Mixed Nuts” with Steve Martin and Rita Wilson playing a couple who worked a phone counseling service for depressed people. The theme of this comedy was that callers had a wide variety of tough problems and the holidays seemed to make them depressed. The counselors answering the help line to encourage the callers became more depressed with every call!
Have you ever had several challenging client cases all in a row over an extended period? If you have, you can probably relate to the characters played by Rita and Steve. The complexities and human issues brought to us by our clients can be both draining and invigorating all at once. I will never forget a meeting I facilitated where the husband and wife were in high conflict over financial issues. I have a vivid memory of making a conscious note of where the door of the conference room was so I could escape if my urge to flee got the best of me!
The meeting concluded well and I didn’t flee from it. But I did flee to counseling courses to learn about conflict resolution so that I would have skills and confidence when couples brought their conflicting styles with money into financial planning discussions. It can be a wonderful resource when we are dealing with the “mixed nuts” of money personalities, varying expectations, or bad information our clients have.
Here are a couple of rich questions that can get clients to be more cooperative with each other. A simple one I ask is, “How are you alike about money matters?” Or if it is about a specific decision, just plug in the topic such as, “How are you alike on the question of what you want your retirement savings to do for you?”
By asking clients how they are similar, the ways they are dissimilar emerge naturally without them (or you) having to get into the more negative aspect of those differences. Their answers on what they agree about lead naturally and more peacefully to a harmonious solution. The answers clients give also often reveal misunderstandings or misinformation they have received in the past. This gives you a great opportunity to be the one who clarifies how things really work, or how to arrive at an accurate recommendation given their situation.
How do you keep from becoming a mixed nut when you’ve overdosed on them? My solution is to snack on some healthier “items.” Call a favorite client or colleague and tell them how much you appreciate them. I have even done this and opened with, “I was just talking to someone who made me feel a little nuts (or exhausted). So I’m calling you to help me feel sane (or energized) again – you’ve always been so rational about things. I have to tell you how much I appreciate that.” Then be quiet and just see what your client says. This is good medicine for both of you – you’ll both feel better.
As long as we’re talking about nuts, enjoy this therapeutic acronym: NUTTY.
Never Underestimate The True You!