The world is upside-down. Some clients are laid off, some wonder if their small business or restaurant can survive, others had to serve as at-home teachers while trying to work remotely, some have family members infected by the virus and others believe the whole thing is overblown. At the same time, markets have drifted wildly, often on a daily basis. Everyone feels vulnerable and out of control. How do you stay sane and help your clients cope?
THREE COMMUNICATIONS SKILLS
- Minimize your own talking and focus on the client. As the saying goes, you have two ears and one mouth. Use proportionately!
- When you greet your clients, don’t ask “How are you?” They know most people don’t really want to know and they’ll say they’re fine. Instead ask “So what is your day like today? Is this an up day, a down day, or an all-over-the-place day?” Alternatively: “What is different in your life today from when we talked last?” Those questions signal that you want to know and that you have some clue what this experience is like for them, and their answers give you valuable information.
- Remember that people with very strong opinions about the reality of the virus or the necessity of mandated responses are not going to be convinced otherwise. Even if you disagree and they are upset, it won’t help if you try to persuade them of anything. Instead, ask them to share their perspective with you and then really listen to the answer. Clarify by saying, “What I hear in your reasoning is this … Is that accurate, or how would you correct my understanding?” If they ask for your assent, say, “You’ve given me food for thought. I really appreciate your honesty and willingness to share your beliefs. Thank you.” Then go on to other things. This way, clients feel heard by you, and are willing to change topics.
THREE SCIENCE-BASED COPING STRATEGIES
- Exercise! This is the most important thing you and your clients can do. Aerobic-level exercise increases health and immunity, alleviates stress, helps even clinical levels of depression and prevents dementia. So walk (outside if possible), do online workouts, go up and down the stairs repeatedly, or do some jumping jacks and wall squats every single time you get up from a chair. Do whatever you can to keep your body moving, and recommend it to clients as well.
- Give them a journal or notebook to write in. (Get one for yourself too!) It’s an excellent tool for processing and venting. It is 100% accepting, and available 24/7. It can even be a good sleep aid when clients write in it before bed so they can shut their brains down.
- Practice conscious gratitude. Make a list of everything and everyone for whom you are grateful. Every evening, read it out loud. Then add one more good thing that happened that day, plus one thing you said or did to make someone else smile. Writing down gratitude and acts of kindness, hearing the words come out of our own mouths and keeping it present daily has a positive mental and psychological benefit.
Using these skills and strategies won’t change the external circumstances causing this turmoil. But they will help you and your clients get through.
Amy Florian is CEO of a firm that works with financial professionals and others who help the grieving.