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Listen and Keep an Open Mind

Written by: Corey Janoff

I imagine doctors hate WebMD and Google.  Over the past 20 years since the internet has become our go-to resource for anything and everything, patients arrive at the doctor’s office with an array of overblown concerns and have even diagnosed themselves in many cases!  It must make the doctor’s life easier when the patient has already determined the diagnoses and appropriate treatment plan.  The only thing patients need doctors for now is to perform the surgery and write the prescriptions!  

When a doctor encounters a patient like this, both parties may end up frustrated.  The patient is convinced she has a certain ailment and is expecting the doctor to confirm her assumptions and provide the anticipated treatment plan.  The doctor will take a look at the patient and maybe, just maybe, will provide a different diagnosis than the patient’s self-diagnosis.  Depending on the scenario, the patient may be disappointed in the doctor’s diagnosis and recommended treatment plan.  

Don’t forget, the patient already spent hours scouring the internet to narrow down her condition.   She also knows her body better than anyone and is convinced of her findings.   All the doctor did was spend a couple of minutes and completely disregard all of that research the patient already conducted!  He clearly didn’t listen to what the patient described and is not in tune with his patient’s needs.  What a quack!   

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From the doctor’s perspective, he is probably thinking, “Here we go again.  Another Googler.”  The doctor isn’t going to simply give the patient what she wants or is expecting.  He is going to use his training and expertise to perform proper due diligence and provide a diagnosis and treatment plan based on his assessment.   If this doesn’t jive with what the patient wants, both parties end up frustrated.  

The doctor is frustrated with patients who don’t listen to his highly trained expertise and completely disregard him for something they read on the internet.  This could lead to an unfulfilling career and eventual burnout.   The patient is frustrated, because she feels like the doctor isn’t listening to her and is just trying to get her in and out of his office so he can move onto the next person.  Or the patient feels like the doctor is recommending an inappropriate/unnecessary treatment plan to boost his revenues and take home a larger paycheck.  Clearly there is a doctor-patient disconnect.  

The Advisor-Client Disconnect

The same thing often happens with financial advisors and their clients.  Thanks to the internet, there is a plethora of free resources available to the public so people can educate themselves about personal finance.   Often, an individual will do a lot of research and create a financial strategy for themselves, then go to a financial advisor merely seeking confirmation that they are doing the correct thing.  Sometimes the financial advisor will tell the client they are doing a great job and to keep up the good work.  Maybe give them a few minor pointers.  Other times, the financial advisor will tell the client that he is not on track to reaching his goals and will need to make some adjustments to get on the right track.  When this happens, sometimes both parties end up frustrated.

Similar to the patient, the client feels like the financial advisor is not listening to him or is misinformed.  Similar to the doctor, the financial advisor is frustrated with a client who is supposedly coming to him for guidance and advice, but really doesn’t want any of it!  

All of us need to do a better job listening and keeping an open mind

Patients need to do a better job of listening to their doctors.  The diagnosis you gave yourself after looking at pictures of rashes online may not be accurate.  Listen to the doctor, ask questions, try to understand why the doctor came to a different conclusion than you did.  Go home and try the treatment plan your doctor prescribed.  If it doesn’t seem to be working, go back for a follow-up and/or maybe get a second opinion.

Doctors need to do a better job of listening to their patients.  Yes, you hold the medical degree and went through all of those years of school and training.  You are much more likely than the patient to provide an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.   However, maybe there are multiple treatment options.   The patient may be more open to one treatment plan over another.  By doing a better job of listening to the patient and showing the patient you care, the two of you can hopefully work together to come up with a plan that works and makes everyone happy.  

Clients need to do a better job of listening to their financial advisors.  Almost all financial advisors I know have their clients’ best interest at heart.  They want to help people reach their financial goals.  Financial advisors are programmed to listen to their clients’ goals and then show the clients what needs to be done to achieve those goals.   Sometimes the clients don’t like how much effort and discipline it will take.  But that doesn’t mean its bad advice.  Just like doctors tell patients that they need to eat healthier and exercise more in order to lose weight and decrease their blood pressure.  Not all patients want to hear that.  The recommendations you need to hear aren’t always the ones you want to hear.  If you don’t feel like your financial advisor is providing the best recommendations for you, ask questions to clarify things.  Ask if there are alternative options or strategies to accomplish the same goal.   Most times, there are.

Financial advisors need to do a better job of listening to their clients.  Sure, advisors can give the optimal path to achieving financial independence, but if it makes the client miserable along the way, that isn’t helpful.  Listen to the client’s goals, concerns, hopes and dreams.  Ask the client if a particular strategy seems doable.  If the client doesn’t think they will be able to commit to it, then go back to the drawing board.  Sometimes you have to put your foot down and tell the client what they need to hear and not what they want to hear.  But again, there may be multiple routes to accomplish the same goal.   Work with the client to figure out the path that will make the most sense for them.  

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Listen and Keep an Open Mind

If we can all do a better job listening to each other and work together to accomplish the desired goal, we might actually accomplish it!  Doctors want patients to be healthy, patients want to be healthy, let’s make it happen.  

You’re not going to be right all of the time.  Understand that.  Sometimes an outside perspective is helpful to open your mind to an idea you didn’t think of.  You can explore that idea and see if it may make sense to implement.  If so, great!  If not, that’s OK too.  Keep brainstorming.  

Sure, sometimes two parties simply will not be able to get on the same page and need to go their separate ways.  However, I feel like if we do a better job of listening to each other and keeping an open mind when it comes to hearing ideas from others, we will reduce the amount of frustration we experience in our lives.  

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