When a client calls to tell you he or she just got fired, you need to be ready to handle a tough conversation.

The three most common reasons why a client would call you with bad news, says Rosemary Smyth, coach and owner of Rosemary Smyth and Associates in Victoria, which specializes in coaching financial advisors, involve health issues, divorce and job loss.

Talking about those subjects — and what your clients need to do to keep their financial plans intact — can be difficult for you and your client.

Follow Smyth’s tips to help you remain calm and focused when a client calls in a panic:

> Use your listening skills
Pay attention when a client calls about a challenging situation.

Your role is to remain respectful and supportive, Smyth says. That means taking the time to understand the situation and acknowledging the client’s feelings.

Paraphrase what your client has said to show that you are listening, she says. Ask open-ended questions to get him or her to explain more.

> Make plans
Schedule a meeting with the client, Smyth says, if the issue requires more attention than can be accomplished in a quick phone call.

For example, if the client lost his or her job, it might be best to plan a meeting after the client has all the necessary details about severance pay, a pension plan and other issues, which might take a week or two.

As well, clarify with the client exactly what should be covered in the proposed meeting. For example, is the client looking into pension options? Insurance needs?

> Give an example
Help clients see a way out of their situation by having a few examples ready. Case studies can demonstrate to clients that there are different options available for them.

For example, if the client is going through a divorce, she says, offer to send a case study on how a divorce can affect financial planning and a checklist of things he or she needs to consider.

> Keep personal feelings in check
When a client calls in a panic, focus on his or her feelings — not yours.

Never judge a client’s situation, Smyth says. For example, if the client tells you that he or she was just rejected for health insurance, don’t bring up his or her long-time smoking habit.

“It’s not the time to argue about things,” she says.

> Take a minute
If a client calls with traumatic news – such as a bad medical diagnosis – you need to give yourself time to process the information.

Although it may not happen often, Smyth says, a client may call to say he or she is gravely ill and may not have long to live. In those situations, you have to act quickly to ensure the client’s finances and documents are in order.

However, particularly if you have known the client for some time, you may need to take a moment to clear your head and process the bad news. Smyth suggests taking a break and perhaps going for a walk.