Working on a life plan with a client can be difficult. Sometimes you’ll be lucky and they have a clear understanding of what they want their lives to be like. But more often than not, when you ask them what a great lifestyle looks like, they will really struggle to answer. But why is this? And what can we do to help? Let me explain.
The fear of judgement
Why do clients find it so hard to think about what they want?
You’d think it would be easy, wouldn’t you? It’s not like your client hasn’t had time to think about what they want out of life – some of them have had 50 years to think about it!
But we’re often a bit scared to talk about what we want. Why? For many people, it’s the fear of being judged – even laughed at. Maybe you want to pack in your job and move to Spain – how will people react to that? Will everyone think it’s a bit wacky? Or too extravagant?
That fear of judgement is often the thing that stops people from talking about what they want from life. And if you’ve never really articulated these things with anyone, it can be hard to suddenly start doing it in front of someone you’ve just met.
Are my needs too dull?
Some clients can be put off by the words ‘life’ and ‘lifestyle’. They might assume you’re expecting them to come up with a list of really grand, exciting things. The reality is, for the vast majority of people, what we really want out of life is to know that:
- Everything will be okay.
- We have ‘enough’.
- Our family and children are safe.
- We don’t have to stress or worry about money.
Yes, there may be a few other things on the list, but that’s the crux of it – that’s what most of us want out of life.
But maybe your client thinks that all sounds a bit dull – surely they are supposed to be coming up with something a bit more exciting?
So, on the one hand they worry that they’ll be judged for mentioning anything that might be perceived as wacky or extravagant, but they may also worry that their needs are too simple and boring.
How do we tease things out?
If you can’t get them to open up about the things they want in their lives, try asking them what they don’t want.
Many people find it much easier to articulate what they don’t want. A classic example is when my wife and I are trying to choose a film.
This is often how the conversation goes:
Me: “let’s watch a film on Netflix – what do you fancy watching?”
My wife: “Oh, anything.”
Me: “Excellent, I’ve found a great one. Horror film?”
My wife: “Oh no – not a horror.”
Me: “How about this comedy, it looks brilliant!”
My wife: “Hmmm, it doesn’t really feel like a comedy sort of night.”
The point is, it’s often easier to say what you don’t want than what you do.
So what don’t you want?
With this in mind, ask your client what they don’t want in their lives. You might suddenly find that they turn around and say:
“I’m sick of worrying about money…”
Brilliant! That’s the first thing that should go on the board. The client then looks at the board and realises how easy that was – he just said it and you wrote it on the board. So they say:
“I’d also quite like some holidays! And I’d love to spend a bit more time with the grandchildren…”
All of a sudden, by asking what they don’t want, you’ve opened the floodgates. It’s almost like it gives them permission to then say the things that they do want.
It’s a great technique to use if you’re struggling to get the conversation going – or the ideas coming. Just having something on the board helps to start the ball rolling.
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