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The power of an incisive question

I was recently listening to someone telling the story of how they had begun a new and exciting phase of their life by starting a small business.

It was something they had thought about doing in the past but had never got beyond this stage.

Not until they had a conversation with their financial planner, that is.

The two were in discussion and a question occurred to the planner and he asked his client…

‘Do you want to be an employee for the rest of your life?’

That one single question caused deep reflection in the clients mind. And the answer came as a very clear ‘No’.

Together, they explored the possibilities and the implications. The client discovered it was feasible and entirely realistic, so consequently he made the move and has not looked back since.

I should add that the planner had no investment in what his client decided. The question was asked innocently, which was why it was powerful.

I found this an inspiring story – through a simple question a life is changed for the better.

This is the power of an incisive question and how valuable can this be for a client and their quality of life?

One of my favourite books is Nancy Kline’s ‘Time to Think’. In it she writes…

‘An incisive question, crafted with precision and lustre, is any question that removes limiting assumptions from your thinking so that you can think again.’

All of us make assumptions that limit us. We become trapped within the confines of certain thinking and alternatives do not look viable, realistic or possible.

An incisive question asked by someone else, who has no agenda, causes us to reflect. Perhaps more deeply than we have ever done before.

Can you plan for asking incisive questions?

I do not think so. They are not something you can have pre-prepared, ready to pull out, like a rabbit out of a hat.

So, what can you do?

One of our most useful, yet ignored, assets is intuition.

But if you go and take your financial planning qualifications you will not learn anything about intuition, will you?

Yet the most powerful planners, the ones who have the biggest positive impact in the lives of their clients, are highly intuitive. They understand that getting a client to open up is not a mechanical, intellectual process.

We live in a world that often puts style before substance. There is far too much emphasis on process. For instance, financial planning is taught as a linear, step driven activity.

But is this all it is?

To listen deeply you have to let go of all of that because it gets in the way. When you listen with nothing on your mind you are not only paying attention to your client, you are also aware of what comes up from deeper within you.

Intuition is beyond the intellect. It is where an incisive question emerges from and why it can be so powerful – it comes from wisdom, not memory.

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