Posted on August 15, 2011

I think you will acknowledge that it is hard to meet a client’s objectives unless you understand what it is they need and want. Understanding is one of the underpinnings of good advice. Without it, you can’t give it.

But how do you come to this understanding?

Do we just know what the client needs? Is this client the same as the last one who was the same as the one before?

Many of you know that my practice is not based on just filling out some forms and producing documents. We are a Counseling oriented practice. We take time with the client to find out what their needs and want’s are. We do that by … LISTENING!

Can you really understand what the client needs without listening to what the client tells you?

So, how do you listen? Or, let me put it another way, what part of you does the listening? If you said your ears, you are only partly correct.

What about eyes and ears? Getting closer. Certainly the eyes are as important as the ears because non-verbal communication is important. How someone is saying what they are saying matters as much as what they are saying.

When a client is talking about their children, it is important to me to watch their body language as they describe them. Some parents light up when they talk about one child and then slump or frown when they talk about another. This helps me to follow up with questions for additional feedback on their relationship or issues regarding the child’s ability to get along with siblings or their ability to manage money.

Everyone knows that email messages don’t always communicate the best (especially with emotional content) because the reader may take something written in a way that the writer never intended. Talking on the phone is similar. Only 45% of the message is communicated over the phone.

This is why we always try to meet with client’s in person if possible.
Early in my practice, I was so eager to show client’s how much I knew, I didn’t stop to listen. I was always talking. Of course, if you are talking, you are not listening.

Suppose a prospective client told you that her current professionals were “not responsive.” Most professionals would not bother to ask “why” or “how” or “in what way,” etc. Instead, they immediately launch into a speech about how they are “responsive.” But what did the client mean when they said “responsive.” Did it mean that their advisors didn’t return phone calls? Maybe they don’t explain things very well? Frankly, it could mean any number of things, but you won’t find out unless you dig deeper and listen to their response.

Listening takes concentration and patience. It is not easy. But listening also build’s trust with the client. Demonstrating that you understand where the client is coming from or the feelings they are communicating will help you help them. And isn’t that what we are trying to do in our professions anyway?