Under Stress: Advising Clients While Caring for Yourself
According to a survey by Everest College, the majority of Americans are stressed at work — 83% to be exact. And it makes sense; with the ability to constantly connect to the office through the internet, our work lives are busier and more stressful than ever. Not to mention, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the fear and uncertainty that surround it, have made us more anxious than ever.
Yet, nobody knows workplace stress better than financial advisors, who must deal with market volatility and the ups and downs of the stock market, as well as the stress those forces cause their clients. But just because it’s common doesn’t make it easy. In fact, having to be there for clients who are undergoing challenging times is only that much harder when you’re under pressure yourself.
To help you deal with this tricky position, here’s a guide for how financial planning professionals can navigate the stress of their clients when they’re also experiencing stress.
1. Be Empathetic
Unlike plain sympathy, which can sometimes come off as bland, forced statements of empty consolation, true empathy requires the ability to really feel what the other person is feeling. That means that a situation where you and your client are both experiencing stress is one of the few opportunities to practice real, honest, sincere empathy.
Think about it. You know what your client is feeling. In fact, you feel what your client is feeling. When you speak with them, you can look into their eyes and connect with them in a rare, genuine way which is also one of the most meaningful forms of social bonding.
In fact, practicing empathy can even reduce stress for both you and your client, as it allows you to practice emotional regulation, something that can help calm your feelings of stress.
2. Take Care of Yourself
It might seem counterintuitive to think of yourself when you’re worried about how to be there for your clients, but the reality is that you can’t help other people float if you yourself are sinking. It’s wonderful to want to help other people, but you need to bring that same level of caring and altruism to yourself, too. Taking care of your own needs and addressing the things in life that are stressing you out will allow you to be truly present and focused when you sit down with your clients, making you a better financial wellness consultant.
So how can you go about practicing stress management for yourself? First, start with taking an honest look at your life. Identify your stressors, whether they’re coming from a heavy workload or something in your personal life. Speak to a professional if you feel that it’s necessary. And prioritize self-care, however that looks for you. It might involve exercise, health and beauty treatments, creative expression, time spent in nature, quality time with loved ones, or a number of other things. Take the time to discover what destresses you and be proactive about committing to it.
Then, and only then, can you be fully present to help your clients.
3. Listen Actively
If you sit down with a client and they are panicked, outlining all sorts of doomsday scenarios and catastrophizing about the future, you might have the instinct to say everything you can think of to get them to calm down — especially if their agitation is exacerbating your own stress. But think twice before you launch into a monologue. What your clients probably need more than anything, even more than your valuable, professional advice — at least at the beginning of your conversation — is to be heard.
Most of the time, people initiate conversations with others about their emotions because they want to speak their mind, to release their feelings, and to be validated. So take the time to listen to your client without judging or butting in. Acknowledge what you are hearing their concerns and show them that you understand. Once your client has calmed down and feels that they have said their piece, you can start thinking about giving your professional opinion and working together toward a resolution.
Remember, it’s the ability to build relationships and help others that probably make you love what you do. Focus on that and your stressful time may even prove to be an opportunity to revive your passion for your profession. If you need help mitigating stress or developing a plan to help you better communicate with clients during stressful times, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at Beyond AUM.