Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to manage and read emotions. And EI is becoming an increasingly valuable quality in financial advisors, as clients depend on you to help them get through uncertain financial conditions.

Further, a high measure of EI will help you hold your ground amid increasing competition from robo-advisors. As an active listener and an empathetic voice, you can respond effectively to your clients’ concerns.

“[EI] gives you the insight and the skill to communicate with your clients in a way that resonates with them,” says Evan Thompson, business coach and founder of Evan Thompson and Associates in Toronto.

If you are armed with EI, you can allay a client’s fears in moments of distress. And, in times of doubt, you can offer reassurance.

Thompson shares tips on how to exercise emotional intelligence in your interactions with clients:

> Listen before you react
EI might be considered a “soft” skill, but when you are faced with a delicate situation, an aptitude for handling emotions is critical. Advisors with a high degree of EI are effective communicators who are attentive — and sensitive — to what others might be feeling at a given moment.

When a client comes to you in a state of panic, you need to be prepared to offer an appropriate response, Thompson says. If, for example, a client informs you that he or she has made a risky investment against your advice, don’t immediately launch into crisis-management mode.

Express empathy and let your client relate their story without fear of judgment. “If you really listen actively and make mental notes of everything being said,” Thompson says, “you’re better able to offer useful advice.”

> Don’t make assumptions
Those who are emotionally intelligent “don’t bring their views or assumptions into the conversation,” Thompson says. Instead, they try to understand the situation from the other person’s perspective.

The best way to relate to people whose life experiences are different from yours is to give them respect.

Thompson offers the example of an advisor holding a family meeting that includes various generations. If you want to make an effort to connect with millennials, he says, avoid trying to connect with them in ways that will appear unnatural or forced.

You’re not there to chat them up about pop culture; you’re there to discuss the family’s financial future. Otherwise, he says, they might feel as if you are treating them like teenagers rather than the adults they are.

Focus the conversation on the issues at hand, Thompson adds. And be as inclusive as possible by addressing your comments to everyone.

> Pay attention to body language
Be mindful of the way your client is engaging with you. An ability to pick up on non-verbal cues can help you bridge gaps in communication, Thompson says.

“If a client is sitting upright, with legs and arms crossed in a defensive gesture,” Thompson says, “[he’s] probably not buying what you are suggesting.”

At the same time, be aware of the non-verbal signals you may be sending and avoid projecting emotions onto others.

And remember that people have “off” days, Thompson says. So do not take things personally.

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