Ep 82: Empathy and why it’s important during difficult coversations

Click here to listen to our Coaches Corner segment where we discuss empathy and it’s importance in our regular conversation with clients

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Ep 82 Empathy

Meghan Tait: [00:00:00] So recently we were having a discussion about the communication style and our, our, um, the way we engage with our clients. And what we wanted to talk about today is, um, maybe as practitioners being a bit more empathetic to people who don’t live. In our world every day, and who maybe don’t have the same awareness, the same level of expertise, of course.

Um, but as people present concerns or worries about the world, about particular events that maybe we need to do a better job or just more of a conscious, I’ll say, job of how we communicate to them. Is that fair? Sure.

Mike Traynor: Yeah. I mean, I guess, you know, starting with maybe the, the Silicon Valley, Uh, issue and some of the other banks and the, the headlines over the past few weeks with that, you know, you get a lot of people that hear about it, maybe don’t understand how it happened and what’s going on, what the fallout will be, and there’s a lot of [00:01:00] concern.

Um, bank failures, is my money safe, you know, all those sorts of things. And then, um, you know, an article in the journal that’s talking about, say, Charles Schwab’s financial condition and. Potential, you know, issues inside that company. Um, you know, and I think, I guess, I guess I’m, I think about it in the sense that, um, our standard MO has always just been, Hey, listen, there’s always a headline series of headlines.

It could be political, economic, you know, whatever, um, that is new and scary and might make people think that, you know, that. We’re heading into like the worst of times or let’s say, and, and we’re always like, okay, this is, you know, always the case where, you know, you can just go back through any year or series of years and point to the [00:02:00] same kinds of emotions and feelings that, that are scary.

Um, and, and I guess I brought up the, the concept of, you know, maybe we’re a little too, we can be at times a little too kind of. Trotting out the same party line, which is just, hey, the long term, you know, things are, things are growing. Markets go up over the long term. You have to accept the volatility as as it comes.

You don’t know, uh, no way to predict blah, blah, blah, all that. And you, we’ve prepared for down times. We’re in a 15 ish month bear market, which, um, I, and I would say, I guess, Might be starting to feel to a lot of people, like it’s a little longer than they’re getting comfortable. That they’re, they’re comfortable enduring and wondering if that’s, we’re just at the beginning of it.

And who knows, maybe we are, maybe we are. And I just think that sometimes maybe there’s a, um, you know, [00:03:00] we talk to clients all day, all week and give the same message and from their perspective. There just might be a different tack to take at times to sort of acknowledge that. Yeah. I mean, the, this is, this is, to me, I always, I, I like to say, yeah, it’s different.

Every single time is different. The circumstances that are going on in the world right now are absolutely different. They never happened before, specifically this way. So like you acknowledge that. Um, but so long as when we talk about being optimistic as advisors and only wanting to work with really, frankly, optimistic clients.

Cause if somebody’s a dor like we talked about, I guess last time, it becomes untenable and, and, and very, very, uh, exhausting to work with. And over time, that’s probably not gonna be a long relationship if, if. Do not let go of that [00:04:00] mindset, I would say. Um, but having said that, you, you gotta, you gotta tread the line of it’s, it’s okay to be concerned.

It’s okay to be worried and fearful and ask questions and look for assurances. And that’s, I think we talked about the end of the day, what we’re, one of our main jobs is, is just to be, just to reassure and listen and acknowledge. Um, and not brush aside the fear and the concern and not be like, Hey, what are you worried about over 10 years from now?

It’s gonna, you know, that kind of thing. And because in the day, in the moment, in the, um, in the week to week, it’s stressful. Could be very stressful for people when they see their, um, you know, their accounts worthless than they were even a year and a half ago, so. Mm-hmm. What do you got, Jeff? I

Jeff Mastronardo: think it’s important to distinguish between when you say this time is different, cause I.

I don’t really subscribe to that language. I agree that this time is different. Meaning, um, a bank [00:05:00] failure versus a pandemic versus whatever other apocalypse has caused the market to go down, right? Mortgage failures and all that crap, like, again, like the cause of the economic downturn is going to be d.

But that doesn’t mean the result’s going to be different. And when I think people say this time is different, they mean I believe the client means the investor means this time is different. So it’s going to lead to, to a different result, a worse result like this may never come back and I don’t subscribe to that.

I do subscribe to what’s causing it is different, but it’s not going to lead to a different result. And I think it’s just a matter. Yeah, we have to be empathetic with people when they come in and they’re, um, I can think of a client, um, in 2020 this time is different. We have Trump trying to get reelected.

We have the pandemic we have and just rattled off four things and worried and concerned, and we have to say to that person. [00:06:00] I know, man, it is scary, I guess is really scary. But what we have to try to do as humans and investors and financial planners is. All right, but are we exposed to anything? Are we over concentrated somewhere?

Which if things do go and, and play out the way that you think they’re gonna play out in the world’s gonna go, come to an end, or mortgages are gonna, you know, banks are gonna fail, are you gonna lose all of your money? Most likely, no. That’s not gonna be the case. Most likely the banking industry. Will will work itself out.

Most likely the market will work itself out. Most likely companies will still continue to learn how to earn profits. So yes, over, and I know you don’t want to hear this Mike, but over the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years, you will recover. You will be better off. The world will figure it out. We just have to make sure we have a plan to get through the really scary time that we’re in now, and we just have to do that better.

We have to be very empathetic when we do that because [00:07:00] we might have 15 conversations a day. Saying the same thing to 15 different people, but it’s the first time that person heard it, and we have to sound and really genuinely feel that empathy for them.

Meghan Tait: I, I agree. I mean, I think maybe I’m somewhere in the middle because like, I think sometimes it’s just a hearing them, sometimes it’s just agreeing with them if you feel the same, you know, concern or the same level of anxiety or the same.

Worry sometimes that’s just it. It’s not, but it’s not, and it’s just, yes. And we can sit in this, we can agree that we’ve done all of the planning we can. We can agree that there’s a lot of this that is way beyond any of our individual control, but sometimes it’s just like sometimes when people want to complain or vent or, or, or express concern, they just want somebody to be like, I [00:08:00] agree.

Yeah. Or I hear you. And I, I think, and I, I shouldn’t speak for everyone. I know I am very quick to want to fix it or offer a solution or say, but look this or see that, or, here’s a chart for that. And, and sometimes that’s being dismissive of their feelings because even though I, I’m hearing them, I don’t know exactly how they’re feeling.

I mean, nobody articulates their feelings, precise. So I think there’s, there’s after 15 months of having these conversations and, you know, after dealing with different variables, with different clients in different situations, like sometimes just sitting in it and like reminding yourself, reminding that person that we’re, we’re here together and, you know, we might not have everything figured out, but like, today, this is what we’re gonna talk through, or this is what we’re gonna try.

Make ourselves feel a little bit better about, and it, it might not be a solution and [00:09:00] they might not leave feeling like great, but if they feel, you know, a little bit better, I feel like sometimes that’s, that’s

Jeff Mastronardo: enough. I’m just worried that, and I like your approach where it’s like, I hear you, I feel you. I mean, it’s scary.

I’m scared as well. Um, and just hearing them out, agreeing with them, all right, we’re gonna use our cash that we set aside for the next. My fear is that they walk outta here and they say, and I’m not saying you’re a bad advisor for it. Sure. Cause I think you’re a good advisor for it. And their friend says, well, what did she recommend that you do?

Oh, well, she didn’t recommend I do anything. In fact. Yeah. Now that you, now that you mentioned it, Sally, Megan didn’t even offer anything that we should do. Well, you should be doing something when you know, and the reason why you didn’t offer anything is cause she shouldn’t do anything. Right. But people perceive.

The advisors that aren’t making a recommendation as not smart as not listening to them, whereas the opposite [00:10:00] advisor who goes, all right, so you’re right Sally, I hear you. This is what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna sit in cash for the next six months. I’m gonna check my volatility charts and I’m going to dollar cost average back in like that person’s a total fricking moron.

Yeah. But they sound like geniuses to the masses because it sounds super smart. Yeah. And you sound like an idiot because you’re doing the right thing. And that’s what, that’s what bothers me about it. And that maybe has nothing to do with the empathy part of it. Doing the right thing is hard. Yeah. Giving the right advice is hard across, across the map, no matter what the advice is.

Friend says, how’s my hair look? And it looks terrible. The right advice is, your hair looks terrible, man. You should wear a hat for the next like four months until it grows back.

Mike Traynor: But given it’s tough, I think you’re saying something like, I think giving the right answer is so important and honest and the right answer.

When somebody says, Hey, they walk in and they’ll say like, I really think we’re, we’re gonna see a massive correction in the next six months. What do you. [00:11:00] Right. The right answer is not. Yeah, I agree with you, bill. Right. Things are, you know, let’s, let’s tick off the factors that are gonna cause this. The right answer is, I have no idea.

Right. And neither does anyone else You have an opinion, which is great. I don’t share your opinion because I don’t have an opinion. Right. I have, we have a, again, we have a plan to deal with whatever happens and having an opinion might be fun to talk about at the barbecue. It doesn’t apply, doesn’t and shouldn’t apply to what you do in, in, on a day-to-day basis.

But aren’t

Jeff Mastronardo: you supposed to be empathetic there? I hear you Bill. Like why do you think we’re gonna experience a, a big correction in the next 10 months? He ticks off all of his factors. Okay. Yeah. Those are really scary things, man. What do you think we should do about that bill? And if Bill says, I think we should go to cash, that’s when we have to, I guess, stop being empathetic, right?

Or try to be empathetic and say, well, how about we try this other. I don’t think we do nothing.

Meghan Tait: Empathy is not, is not an excuse to be a doormat. It’s not an [00:12:00] excuse to take, take orders from people who have hired us to do a service or to provide a job, like to do a job for them. So I don’t wanna, I don’t think we need, we shouldn’t mistake empathy for improper action.

I’m simply saying that like, if someone expresses feelings, we can’t dismiss those feelings by saying, oh. Here is the solution. Sometimes just letting them feel and articulate those feelings is what people need. If we’re getting to the point where action is on the table, well then yes, we absolutely have to do our jobs.

That’s why we’re in the role that we’re in. Yeah, but I interpreted our conversation as more just instead of always jumping to the, we know things will get better because that’s all we. It’s like it’s shitty right now, and we’re allowed to agree that it’s shitty. And if it’s shitty for you, Sally, for different reasons than you, Jeff, then you, Mike than me, Megan, like, okay.

I, I guess I, I don’t feel like [00:13:00] that necessarily means we then have to follow suit with exactly what they think should be done right, or what their buddy thinks should be done. It’s not an excuse for us not to do our jobs. It’s simply a layer of. I, I don’t know. To me it’s like just a, a breath instead of always trying to fix something.

Just letting it lie, even if it’s momentarily.

Jeff Mastronardo: Yeah. And is it okay to say to someone, cause I know I do it like, yeah man, this is scary. It’s crazy. And I’m like, I have no idea when this is gonna get better. Like, I have no idea how long it’s gonna take, and maybe this is what I shouldn’t be doing. But I also, I always say like, but I just know it.

Like, I know it will if the money market breaks the buck and if TD Bank and Wells Fargo Bank and all these other banks go out of business, like there will be a solution at the end. It will be really horrible and crappy for God knows how long. But all we can do is look back historically and say, okay, in, in the worst of times, like, [00:14:00] how long has it been really bad?

And then what did it look like coming out of that? I don’t know. How can you not feel better after that conversation? All right. Hey, I guess because if you’re a do. Right. It never gets better. It never gets it,

Mike Traynor: it it, it never gets better. Yeah. And then the other perspective on it is that reminding people that in the past 10 years or so, where, where we’ve been in a, like unprecedented bull market, right.

Any dip or any pullback has been so short-lived that like historically, it’s like incredibly unusual. So, The confidence that people had that any dip was gonna just automatically be short. Like, like even Covid. That was,

Jeff Mastronardo: yeah. Uh, 20 18, 6 months. 2018 was December. Mm-hmm. Yeah. So 2018 was a down year, and it was just December.


Mike Traynor: So there have been, so now we’re in an actual normal recovery, which is, we’re 15 months in, which hasn’t been the case for a long time. [00:15:00] And, um, some of ’em I was looking at. 2,700 days it took to get back. That was in the late seventies. That was like the seventies miserable, high inflation. Yeah. Uh, time.

Did you say seventies or 2023? Yeah. Right. No, but, but I mean, I think that’s the thing. Like people have to be reminded that this is normal. The 15 month like down market is not. Unusual when you’re having a, a pullback. Yeah. It’s just not, and it, it could be another 15 months. I don’t know. Um, anyway, just to wrap, I maybe to wrap up, I think we, we had this conversation the other day and Yeah.

I, I think I was feeling like sometimes, uh, we, we, we might, yeah. You know, our message maybe can be massaged a little bit to be, we’re using the word empathy, and I think that’s as close as we can get to what I’m, I’m talking about, um, an acknowledgement that. Um, that this is, that this is like scary [00:16:00] times for a lot of people and especially the people that are glued to the TV or on, on social media and just following, um, a storyline and getting confirmation bias every day, all day long about what they already believe.

And, and so that just makes it harder. We can’t

Jeff Mastronardo: just say, don’t worry about it. 10 years from now, you’re gonna have way more money. Yeah. Yeah. That doesn’t, that’s not gonna make anyone feel better tomorrow.

Meghan Tait: But I also think, like, to wrap up the wrap up, the wrap up, like giving advice is hard. Yeah. Giving good advice is hard, and dealing with human emotion is really, really difficult.

Jeff Mastronardo: I don’t think people understand that part of our job. I, I take it and take it for granted and take it away for granite,

Meghan Tait: and I’m not looking for pity, like for the role that we play. Not at all. It’s just when things are, Things are good. When things aren’t, everything changes. Yeah. And by things I mean, obviously the market and people’s money.

Um, and there’s, [00:17:00] it’s just difficult.