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training does not include strategies or tools for suppressing or controlling emotions. A lot of us spend time trying to avoid certain feelings, such as anxiety or anger. Some of us even get anxious about feeling anxious and it becomes a vicious cycle. Research shows that trying to suppress emotions may work in the shortterm but over the long-term, actually make things worse; leading to even greater levels of depression or anxiety.

practice allowing your emotions to just be there as they arise, without judging, trying to control or change them. A good start is to act like a curious scientist and just notice and name your emotions as they come up. For example, “I notice I am having a feeling of anxiety...” There are literally thousands of mindfulness techniques to learn and practice, but most stem from this simple nonjudgmental ‘noticing’.

It can be useful to make a list of all the strategies you have used in the past to rid yourself of unpleasant or unhelpful emotions. Then ask yourself honestly – how many of them have worked long-term? Instead of control or suppression of emotions, there are better emotion regulation strategies available from the practice of mindfulness.

Also important for EI is developing a sense of empathy, both for one’s self and other people. Studies have shown that encouraging a sense of self-compassion leads to a greater sense of wellbeing and buffers people against having negative feelings. Fostering empathy for clients promotes better dialogue and builds more trusting client relationships. This in turn leads to clients who are advocates for your practice, ensuring longevity of relationships and better quality referrals.

Mindfulness Mindfulness has been practiced in the East through various forms of meditation for centuries. In today’s busy world, new techniques have been introduced through modern psychology that can supplement these older practices. One mindful alternative involves learning to accept your emotions and emotional experiences. Accepting means that you

Emotional challenges Dealing with an emotionally-difficult interview can be a make or break point in your relationship with a client and will bring all your EI skills into play. When dealing with an angry or fearful client, it’s important to understand that emotions are messengers. Ask yourself, “What is the client trying to convey?” Also note

that a surface emotion such as anger may be covering an underlying emotion, such as fear or anxiety. So what are some tips for dealing with emotionally-charged situations? 1. Anchor yourself in the present...breathe... keep your feet firmly planted on the floor. 2. Resist the temptation to provide a premature solution; practice empathic listening and questioning. For example, “I’m so sorry you were fired. How can I help you today?” 3. Make statements that take responsibility for what you are noticing. For example, “I might be wrong here, but you seem quite anxious about the situation...” 4. Validate and normalise the client’s feelings and actions. For example, “It’s completely understandable to be angry in these circumstances...if our roles were reversed, I would be feeling angry too.” Whether or not you score highly in EI, rest assured, improvement is always possible. Helen Parker, B.Psych (Hons), MBA and Wayne Lear, CFP, SSA is principal of Conscious Money.

EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE AND THE FPA’S CODE OF ETHICS The effective ‘intelligent’ use of emotions is very much in line with the FPA’s code of ethics.

Putting the client first EI training helps you deal more effectively with your own emotions and provides tools for handling a full range of client interactions. However, this does not mean up-skilling people in manipulating or controlling others in an adverse or harmful way. An important caveat in the emotional intelligence model is the concept of developing positive regard, both for you and for other people. Fostering positive regard and compassion gives you a greater sense of empathic perspective taking – letting you ‘walk a mile in your client’s shoes’ and put their interests above your own. Developing skills in active and empathic listening demonstrates to the client that you are truly hearing them. This indicates you are not placing personal interests before theirs.

Integrity and Professionalism Also, a very important part of emotional intelligence is the ‘authentic’ use of emotions, that is, having your outer behaviour and actions match your inner feelings and intentions. When your outer behaviours match your inner reality, people gain an appreciation of you as an authentic planner; a true professional who genuinely cares for them. It also involves exploring your own values or what really matters to you, and this in turn helps you be more focused and productive in your practice and in your life more generally.

Objectivity Lastly, an ‘intelligent’ use of emotions is developing the ability to emotionally detach when necessary, particularly when you are in emotional turmoil. This enables you to achieve greater objectivity and professionalism, without being so caught up in the situation.

financial planning | SEPTEMBER 2011 | 25

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