From the September 2005 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

September 1, 2005

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Wives tend to joke about their husbands' selective hearing. But it's no joke, according to Dr. Sax. Girls hear much better than boys--a difference that persists in adulthood and becomes more marked after age 40.

And it's probably the spouse with XX chromosomes who's going to wake up in the middle of the night hearing a mysterious noise. Girls are distracted by noises 10 times softer than noise levels that would affect boys. In fact, girls and women tend to be much more bothered by extraneous sounds than their male counterparts.

One implication: screen out distracting office sounds (clicking keyboards, ringing phones, distant conversations) while meeting with a woman client. If you have a loud voice, consider toning it down so she won't perceive that you're shouting at her. An advisor with a naturally low voice may want to increase the volume for a male client.

Also, when you're working with a client couple, don't assume you're reaching him just because she appears engaged. He may feel too vulnerable to speak up and say, "I can't hear you." In fact, hearing differences are another good reason to keep checking with clients of both genders to make sure they're on board with you.

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