Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood By Jeff Alexander and Jack Lawlor

     In the field of financial services, I am constantly engaging with clients and trying to develop mutual relationships that can benefit both the client and I. Over the course of my 20+ years of experience, I’ve been fortunate to come across a tremendous amount of advice that has not only helped to develop my personal character, but also the way I’m able to communicate and establish valuable relationships with clients. One of the most important pieces of advice I’ve attained comes from author Stephen Covey, and his book titled The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey mentions how our society tends to rush in and fix other people’s problems with “good” advice, while often failing to take the time to diagnose and truly understand the problem at hand. So how exactly might we try to fix this problem that Covey believes plagues our interpersonal relationships? The answer is simple: seek first to understand, then to be understood.

     By being able to truly understand the words, thoughts, and feelings of those I communicate with, I’ve been able to open myself up to a whole new world of relationships built on openness and trust. This is especially important when dealing with the financial well-being of my clients. If I’m not able to understand how my client feels regarding their financial future, why would they even bother with my advice? Too often do I hear people listening with the intent to reply, rather than to understand. If I were to give advice to my clients based on my own life journey, what use would it be to somebody who has come from a completely different frame of reference? By putting myself into somebody else’s paradigm through empathic listening, I’m able to provide my clients with the psychological space they need to feel confident about the decisions I’m making for them. When placing myself within the shoes of others, I feel I’m able to see through the judgements that we often get caught up in when meeting new people. By judging first, a person will never be able to fully understand someone’s personal situation. I invite you now to think about this guiding principle. In what ways could you improve your understanding of others so that you can establish more advantageous relationships with those around you?


     What do you see? An old woman? A young lady? This picture demonstrates the power of perception, and how we all may be looking at the same image, but can perceive it in many ways. By changing our paradigm, we can better understand the thoughts and feelings of those we interact with, and establish better relationships that are built on trust and integrity.

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