Successful financial advisors know that expressing empathy is critical in helping them to connect with clients and solidify their relationships. Clients need to know you understand their circumstances and what they may be going through at any given time. However, empathy taken too far can backfire when advisors find themselves sharing the same emotional distress as their clients, which can threaten their objectivity and compromise sound planning advice.
At the extreme, this can lead to advisors relinquishing control of the relationship to their clients and acquiescing to their desire “to fix the problem” in the short-term at the expense of their long-term plan. This type of role reversal is not uncommon for advisors who become emotionally vested in their clients, wanting to do what they can to ease their pain. Suddenly, the relationship is no longer being guided by rational, objective advice; but rather the behavioral impulses advisors are supposed to prevent, such as selling into a steep market decline, or abandoning the long-term strategy just to alleviate the immediate suffering.