“Think” or “Feel”

Restaurant owners know what a “reefer” is, but perhaps it’s a new word to you – unless you grew up in the 1960’s.  Back in—when I was a teenager—a “reefer” transitioned to a “joint”—think Colorado–but I digress.  For those in the food business, a “reefer” is a climate controlled, movable trolley with shelving on which perishable foodstuffs are transported from the distributor to the restaurant.  When the truck off loads the raw material for tonight’s dinner, dozens of reefers file into the kitchen full of produce, meat, dairy products, and eggs, all needing refrigeration.

 Any advisory practice continually offloads trucks crowded with “data reefers” into the kitchen of our work.  Lined up in our minds are audit reports, balance sheets, market data, “reefers” loaded with data and much, much more.  And yes, we have to “think about” all this data.  At times, we overheat as our body tells us that is about all the stress the mind can handle for the moment.

Clients are the recipients of the goods we take out of our pantry and coolers.  Charts, statistics, performance numbers, and of course our opinion can easily overwhelm even the brightest of clients with whom we visit on any given day.  Make no mistake about it, knowledge is power.  We must be well read and dialed in to what the data is telling us.

But when it comes to decision time, we need client reaction and feedback.  The temptation is to ask, “What do you think about this idea—reallocating the portfolio, taking some risk off the table, this tax strategy—all needing a client decision.  A better question asks: “How does this idea feel to you?”  or, “Does this feel like a prudent way to go?”  

Dial back the conversation a bit and inject “feel” into phrases and sentences with clients.  “The market seems to suggest WHATEVER, but I feel the data may be telling us something different.”  And then share your opinion.  The most important decisions any of us make in life flow out of how we feel at the moment, not necessarily what we think.  Facts may and do inform decisions, but feelings are the trigger of change.

Couples who think about getting married may think their way right out of it.  Falling in love, come to think of it, may be one of humankind’s most illogical, non-rational acts.  Think too much about how expensive rearing a child will be and you may not have a child.  Shop for a car, read all the data and consumer reviews of an automobile, and get a price.  You buy the car that “feels” good when you sit behind the wheel and drive it, not because it gets 32 rather than 34 MPG.  Clients who are only asked to “think about” something rarely feel the need to do anything.

Offer your clients the data you believe they can get their minds around, but then move to ask the “feel” questions and watch how many more and better decisions they make in almost every area of their life that deeply matters to them.

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