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Incoming!! Deflect! Deflect!

Incoming!! Deflect! Deflect!

How tough are you on your clients?  I mean, when you’re in a great Lifestyle Financial Planning session with them, how often do you really challenge their answers? Right, let’s start by finding out why you need to challenge them at all.

News flash – clients often deflect questions…

I see this time and time again.  Planners often sit with their clients, ask them a question and then happily take their first answer.

But, if you’d probed a bit more and your client had really given your question some thought, would they have answered it differently?  Probably!

Here’s a common scenario.  You’re working with a client and they are approaching retirement.  So you ask them, “how do you feel about your work?”  Great question!  And the client says, “I actually quite enjoy my work.”  So you reply, “that’s brilliant” and you write it down as a little fact find – client enjoys work – and move on to the next question.

And if I’m sitting observing, I immediately think “but that makes no sense.  Who actually enjoys work?”  Nobody really enjoys work.  I suspect what they really meant was:

  • I can tolerate it (given that I have to work)
  • Well, I’ve done worse jobs than this
  • Of all the jobs I could be doing, this one is okay…

So why did they say that they enjoyed work?  Why did they not just say, “not really.  To be honest, I’d rather not have to work at all, but I have to do this job until I get my pension at 65….

I’ll tell you why – it’s because their brain saw a slightly tricky question coming and simply deflected instead.

Why does our brain deflect questions?

So, why do we deflect questions?  Why don’t we just answer them truthfully?  It’s because it’s easier that way.

As human beings, we don’t really like answering questions that require us to think.  Whenever we get a human question that requires us to look deep inside and actually reveal something about ourselves, we have a little panic, and the little army in our brain shouts, “Oh no – nightmare!  Incoming question that needs a meaningful answer – deflect deflect!”  We just feel all uncomfortable.

So instead of taking the time to give a meaningful, considered answer, we just deflect the question and give a generic, safe answer – “yes, I enjoy work.  Thank you for asking. Next question, please….”

How do you find out what your client really feels?

If your client is deflecting your questions, you’re going to need to work a little harder – you’re going to have to challenge their answers until you feel like you’re getting somewhere.  And I’ll be honest, it’s quite common to have to work through 3 or 4 layers of deflections before you get to their real, human, root answer.

Imagine you challenged your client’s deflection and said, “great, so you enjoy your work.  Does that mean you’d work for free?”  Your client would probably spit out their tea and say, “I’d rather do nowt for nowt than work for nowt!”

And that’s the point.  There are things we do for free because we enjoy them, and there are things that we tolerate doing because we know they earn us money.  Personally, I enjoy a game of darts.  Me and our kid, Saturday afternoon, a couple of pints – he always wins. I enjoy doing that.  And I do it for free because I enjoy it.  But work? I do that for pay.  If we are completely honest and truthful with ourselves, we’d all agree the same.

So, does your client really mean that they enjoy work?  If they could work out a Lifestyle Financial Plan that allowed them to retire early, would they continue working for free? I’d say it’s pretty unlikely.  Don’t just take their first answer, probe and widen – challenge them for the truth.

Check your client is actually answering the right question

Let’s look at another example.  Ask your client when they’d like to retire, and I can almost guarantee they’ll give you a rounded number – 55, 60, 65.  And when you ask, “why did you choose age 65 rather than 61.5 or 68 – maybe even 52?”  they almost always reply, “because that’s when I get my pension.

But hang on a minute – that’s not the question you asked.  You actually asked, “When would you like to retire?

What’s happened?  Their brain has deflected the question and they’ve given you the answer to a different question.  Why?  Because instead of digging deep for a meaningful, honest answer, once again their brain shouted “incoming, incoming – let’s deflect!

And the fact is, they probably didn’t even realise they’d done it – but you spotted their deflection (or at least you should have done).

It’s your job to spot the deflections and challenge them

Is it hard to spot a deflection?  Not really – you just need to ask yourself this:  “have they just answered the question I actually asked? Or have they just given me a generic answer to a slightly different question?”

So, be a bit tougher on your clients.  Keep challenging every answer until you feel you’ve got somewhere – until you feel like they are actually answering each question truthfully.

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