Empathize, Don’t Sympathize

Empathy: The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.

Sympathy: The feeling that you care about and are sorry about someone else’s trouble, grief, misfortune, etc.

There is never a convenient time to invest.

The market is too high, the market is too low, we need a new kitchen first and a million other reasons are readily available. The toughest investment decision every prospective investor faces is the decision to do it. This is where you must play bad cop.

A big part of your job is getting people to do what they don’t always want to do.

Listen to this audio episode or read the transcript below for an idea how to do that.

Most people care more about what they are wearing and what they are driving than what their IRA balance is at any given time. Maybe it’s an instant gratification thing. Maybe saving money is not fun. Maybe the person feels he is so late in starting that it won’t make any difference. Whatever the reason, it is imperative you don’t buy into it.

You are the last line of defense between the client and himself.

You are not doing him a favor by letting him slide. Sympathy on your part simply enables procrastination on his part. Empathize, don’t sympathize.

As someone who has dedicated his or her life to helping others, you are, by nature, a sensitive person.

Tales of personal distress, even though the tales may be no more than excuses, naturally arouse sympathy. You understand the procrastinator’s dilemma and feel sorry for him. After all, the family needs that European vacation and there are lots of years to invest down the road. You’ll come back at another time.

You’re not the loser here. He is.

And he’ll be the loser the next time and the time after that. And that’s exactly how people get to be sixty-five years old with an inadequate retirement account. Nobody holds them accountable.

This is where you make a difference.

“Mr. Smith, I hear you. I empathize, but I do not sympathize.”

You then explain that building an adequate retirement account is a daunting challenge. That’s why you break the challenge down into manageable chunks.

You tell a vision story with your prospect as his family’s hero.

By taking the right steps, he will be the envy of all his friends when he has the best retirement plan on the block. He deserves to be a member of the Success Crowd.

It’s quite easy to spend $20,000 getting two people to Europe for two weeks. The same $20,000 invested at a reasonable rate of return over several years makes the opportunity cost of going to Europe prohibitive. You can’t order him, but you can nudge him.

Everybody on earth wants to know what to do next. You have the answer.

That makes what you have to say worth a lot of money. You show people why doing the right thing matters. But you can’t do that if you don’t, at times, push back; if you aren’t politely persistent.

Doctors know needles hurt. They give shots nonetheless. Why? Because they know that little bit of discomfort up front leads to miracles down the road.

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