Seven Ways Clients Sabotage Conversations

How to disarm the Talk Show Host, Graffiti Artist, Parachutist and others

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Don’t be a conversation saboteur. That’s a sure way not to connect with clients. Do you recognize yourself as any of the seven saboteurs described below? Possibly. Do you recognize any of your clients? Probably.

In an interview with AdvisorOne, Scott West, head of consulting at Invesco Van Kampen Consulting, offers advice on how to deal with conversation-destroyer-types. He is co-author, with Financial Life Planning Institute founder Mitch Anthony, of the new book, Defining Conversations (Insights Press). 

What are the most common conversation saboteurs?

A big one is The Talk Show Host — someone who grabs the microphone and won’t let go. No matter what you say, it’s all about them and what they perceive to be entertainment. It’s difficult to derail The Talk Show Host. But when they come up for air, you might say, “You know, time is really valuable and I appreciate the time you’ve given me. What would you like to get out of our session today?” You almost reboot the system, but delicately.

How about what you’ve dubbed The Graffiti Artist?

Their intention is to mar or distract from the message. They just don’t dominate the conversation, they do it with their wit.  They bring in jokes. For them it’s a work of art. You need to find subtle ways to bring the conversation back on point. Make sure you’re clear as to what your intentions are in meeting with them.

The Mountain Climber?

Out of a deep insecurity, they always have a need to one-up the next person. That can be really debilitating. Yet it’s so easy for advisors to fall into that role with clients. If you encounter a Mountain Climber, give them accolades. You’ve got to give them their respect.

What about The Psychic?

The highly sophisticated Psychic finishes your sentences.  Say to them, “You know, I seem to be talking over you, please complete your thought.” Then wait. Repeating this technique early on can help make them realize they’re talking over you.

The more primitive form of The Psychic is The Interrupter. They won’t let you finish and just go off on their own tangent. Let them finish; but, again, ask them a question to bring them back on point. Unless you remind The Interrupter what you’re there to talk about, they’ll continue to blast way.

Then there’s The Parachutist.

This one is common with advisors in team relationships. If two people are having a conversation and all of a sudden a third one jumps in uninvited: “What are you guys talking about? Oh, I just had the same experience,” boom, your conversation is gone. Say “That’s really interesting. We were actually talking about [a client’s] situation.” That will reorient them.

What’s up with the Ultimate Fighter?

No matter what you say, they’re a naysayer. They can suck the life out of a conversation: “I disagree with that.” “That’s not my experience.” One way to disarm them is to find the 1 percent that you agree with. You’ll pull the rug out from under them. It’s hard to argue with someone that agrees with you!

And last but not least: The Willful Avoider.

Giving a deadline to the delayer who tries to put you on hold often acts to hold them accountable. Telling you, selling you, putting you on hold are all monolog-based conversations. A dialogist, on the other hand, understands that a conversation is two-way and that there’s accountability.

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