October 29, 2021

No. How Are You, Really?

It happened decades ago.
But it’s etched deep into my memory.

I’d just moved from South London to West Sussex.

We were visiting a family, whom we thought might need a little support.
Reaching out to them was part of my ministry.

My companion and I followed the busy young mother into their lounge.
She sat opposite us, and offloaded an armful of clothes onto her settee.

“How Are You?” I began.

“Oh, I’m Fine, Thank You!” she replied, smiling.

Something made me pause, and look quietly at her eyes.
“No. How Are You Really?”

Her smile collapsed.
And tears flowed quickly and easily.

There followed an hour of deep, meaningful conversation.
Of outpouring.
And new family friendships were formed.

Most financial planning education just doesn’t prepare us to work at more than a logical, right-brained level.

We ask questions, often to gain the ‘helpful’ answers we’re seeking.
Answers that will allow us to launch into dispensing our superb, impressive advice.

Questions like “What Are Your Goals and Objectives Now?”
(I mean… who speaks like that in their everyday?!)

We think we’re listening.
But we’re really listening ‘In Order To’.

In order to discover a problem we’re skilled at solving.
In order to find out the data that we need to calculate with.
In order to impress with our next clever question.

And we wonder why clients simply don’t Get It!
Don’t Get that it’s not just about investment performance, fees, costs and tax savings.

An insightful financial planner East of London shared with me the opening conversation he had with a couple who had just come into a sizeable inheritance. Sizeable. Big.

“I wonder…” he posed, right at the very start of the conversation.
“What difference do you feel this will make to your life?”

“Wow!” was the response.
“Nobody has bothered to ask us that question!
So, we haven’t seriously talked about it.”

“I’m listening…” Continued our financial planner.

You can imagine the fascinating conversation that flowed from there.
And, be honest, do you think that couple were really going to quibble about things like fees and product costs?

Mind you, 3-Dimensional asking and listening doesn’t just play out in our work with clients.
I’ve seen leaders in financial planning firms working at this level with their colleagues and teams.

One leader asked this question upon opening a monthly team meeting.

“The first question I’d like to pose is this: How Can I Better Support You in Your Role?”


There are two profound, life-shifting skills missing from much of today’s professional education:

  • The ability to ask more meaningful questions
  • The ability to listen (and listen and listen) to the answers.

If you want to know what our clients study, in order to become masters in these two skills
Just ask me!


I’m happy to share that with you.
(No, I’m not on commission!)

Oh, and before you ask…

I’m doing just fine.