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Get out of the way you bleeding idiot!

Get out of the way you bleeding idiot!

Remember my recent blog, where I flagged up the perils of computer generated risk profile questionnaires?  The ones that guide your client to give answers that don’t really reflect how they feel – chips, salad, remember?  Well, sometimes an electronic questionnaire can actually help – I know, it’s a bit of a paradox.  Let me explain.

Electronic questionnaires can come in handy

You know how much of an advocate I am for that human relationship.  I firmly believe that you should be eyeball to eyeball when you are coaching and planning – it’s what gets you to the truth.  But the trouble is, we’re human beings and we often try to hide the truth at first.  This may come as a surprise, but an electronic questionnaire can actually pave the way for a really great human session.  How?  It’s all to do with human instinct.

Having safe space allows us to be more truthful

Human instinct is a funny thing.  Ever noticed how you react differently when you’re eyeball to eyeball with someone, compared to when you’ve got a bit of safe space?  Take these two examples:

  • Eyeball to eyeball. Imagine you are in Tesco.  You’re walking along with your trolley and someone backs right into you.  It’s totally their fault.  What’s your initial reaction?  Do you spin around and shout, “Get out of the way, you idiot?!  For God’s sake, didn’t you see me?”  Of course you don’t!  In fact, your natural reaction is probably to say, “Oh goodness, I’m so sorry. It’s totally my fault….

As humans, our natural instinct is to try and avoid conflict – we don’t want to be judged for what we say or what we do.  But in your head, you were probably thinking, “how come you didn’t see me, you bleeding idiot?!”  But because you were face to face, you didn’t feel you could say what you were really thinking – being eyeball to eyeball changes everything.

  • Safe space. In contrast, imagine you are driving your car.  You’re at a roundabout and someone cuts you up.  Do you mouth, “I’m terribly sorry!”  I doubt it – it’s much more likely that you would shout, “You idiot!” So how does this differ to the Tesco scenario?

The fact that you are both in cars creates a bit of separation – you’re not eyeball to eyeball.

And that’s great – as long as you then follow up with a great, face to face, human session!. You can take their answers and use them as the perfect starting point for some really fantastic conversations

So, give your client some safe space too

So if you’re in a financial planning session with a client, face to face, and you ambush them with questions that are very emotional, they’ll probably just give you a reactionary answer.  It’s unlikely they will say what they really feel.  Why?  Because you’re eyeball to eyeball – they’re probably sitting there, worried that you’re going to judge their answer in some way.

But remember, when something is dehumanised we are much more likely to say what we really mean.  So sometimes, you need to allow your client that initial bit of safe space – it just helps them to begin the process of opening up and being truthful.

Do a questionnaire with a client remotely – to start with – and you’ll find you often get some really interesting answers.  Your client probably feels quite bullish, sitting in their safe space with their laptop, so they answer the questions quite honestly – there’s nobody there to judge their answers and nobody to make them feel self conscious or awkward.

And that’s great – as long as you then follow up with a great, face to face, human session.  You can take their answers and use them as the perfect starting point for some really fantastic conversations.  Look at their initial truths – really explore them with your client to understand their emotions, where their answers are coming from and how they really feel.

‘Dehumanising’ can actually help you connect and do great ‘human’ work

Yes it’s ironic, but the initial process of dehumanising things with an electronic questionnaire can actually pave the way for a really great, in person, human session.  It can actually help you to connect in a far deeper and more human way because you’ve removed the fear of judgement.  Clever.

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