While interruptions within conversations occur frequently, the type of interruption can affect the content and flow of the dialogue that follows. For instance, if an interlocutor interrupts a speaker with a totally unrelated question or line of thought, the interruption not only has the potential to frustrate the speaker but can also cause them to lose their train of thought. Interestingly, different people have been found to have unique conversational ‘intensity levels’, where a ‘high-intensity’ speaker perceives interruptions in the form of simultaneous talking as a natural way of showing interest in what the speaker has to say, and a ‘low-intensity’ speaker might find such an interruption rude and distracting, even if it wasn’t the interrupter’s intention to disrupt the conversation. Further, these dynamics can be even more challenging when speaking in a virtual environment, as it can be harder to tell when one person is finished speaking. And by understanding these varying levels of conversational ‘intensity’, advisors can hold more productive client conversations by taking measures to reduce or mitigate the impact of interruptions during client meetings.
In financial planning relationships, interruptions by an advisor can be exponentially more impactful due to the fact that prospects and clients tend to be uncomfortable with jargon and feelings of being judged. When a person is interrupted, even when the interruption is made with no ill intent (e.g., because a client’s comment sparks a potential planning opportunity in the advisor’s mind), the conversation can come to a sudden end. Notably, this can work the other way as well, as an advisor might be interrupted by a curious client who is a high-intensity speaker seeking clarification (and not trying to be a jerk!).
One way for advisors to minimize unnecessarily interrupting prospects or clients during meetings is to take notes while their interlocutor is speaking. Using this tactic, the advisor can ensure they remember key facts and potential follow-up questions without interrupting the speaker (another helpful practice is to first ask the client’s permission to take notes before doing so, which can enhance the client’s confidence by giving them some degree of power and control over the meeting). Yet interruptions are sometimes inevitable – whether they are deliberate or not. For inadvertent interruptions, advisors can ‘recover’ simply by apologizing and letting the client know they want them to continue speaking (which also potentially reduces the chances that the advisor comes off as rude to the client). For interruptions that need to be made (e.g., to correct a wrong assumption), advisors can phrase their interjection using “Yes, and…” thinking, which conveys acceptance and agreement instead of contradiction and judgment. Alternatively, simply asking for permission or using body language cues can also buffer the impact of interruptions.
Ultimately, the key point is that given the sensitive and personal nature of conversations related to financial planning, advisors can help prospects and clients feel more understood by avoiding and mitigating interruptions during meetings. And by taking measures to reduce the number of interruptions and conveying they didn’t mean to be rude when interruptions do happen, advisors not only foster more productive conversations but also make their prospects and clients feel more empowered in the process!