Listening is a skill that’s often overlooked, both in business and in society at large. The pace of modern life means that most of us are busier with more demands on our time. Yet investing the time and energy in authentic and genuine listening can improve our relationships by giving us a greater sense of understanding and helping us form better connections.
I experienced first-hand the power of listening in my previous career as a pastor and university chaplain.
When I walked around campus, most students were scrolling on their phones, eating on the go, or running between classes and extracurricular activities. Rarely, if ever, did students have the time or energy to sit with one another without distraction and focus on what the other person said.
I found that students’ greatest need was to be heard and to connect. As I listened, I heard stories about their relationships with their families, their hopes for their careers, and their doubts about themselves as they looked to their futures. Listening without trying to think how I would respond made me a better chaplain as I was able to begin to understand and empathize with their unique situations.
Now that I’ve transitioned to a career in financial planning, I’m thankful for the listening skills I learned and developed in my previous vocation. And I look forward to integrating the art of listening into our client conversations about financial planning. Whether we’re talking about investments, estate plans, or your 30-year retirement, we focus on listening first and answering second.
At Woodward, great financial planning begins with great listening. Everyone we work with has their own story – their own set of goals and priorities. The better we are at listening, the better we will understand and connect with our clients. Once we’ve listened, we can define what success means to each person and help them get there. A successful life is rarely defined only by dollar signs; financial resources aren’t usually an end in themselves.
For some, success is a feeling of peace they got when they were assured that they could provide educational funding for their family members. For others, success is a sense of purpose and impact in a formalized giving plan to causes that are close to their hearts. And still for others, success means never having to think about money again, so they can pursue a second career or focus on their grandchildren or road trip to every state in the US.
Without empathetic listening, these goals just boil down to numbers on a page. Of course, there are financial implications in these definitions of success, but these desires go far beyond the scope of savings rates and investment allocations. They get at something much deeper, and they answer a question that many of us don’t feel we have the time to answer in the busyness of daily life:
“What is most important to me, and what makes a meaningful life?”
So today, take the time to slow down and find someone to talk to or be that listening ear and help someone discover what success really means to them.
Written by Libby Boehne
Article Photo by Kyle Smith on UNSPLASH