The Advisor Institute: Coach's Corner
Beware of the 'smiley face'

Practical messages intended to help you elevate the success of your practice.

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      By David RichmanNational Director, Eaton Vance Advisor Institute

      Early on in the pandemic, my daughter hung up on my wife one morning after exclaiming: "I am sick of your positivity and am hanging up now!"

      My wife, perhaps the most positive person you will ever encounter, had been championing the notion that despite all the tragic aspects of what was happening around us "we need to keep looking for the sprinkles" (she loves to bake so sprinkles are her version of silver linings).

      At the time, my daughter's harsh reaction was an important wake-up call for me. My packed schedule had me giving multiple "This Is Your Time" speeches a day. The speech includes six actions, including "be positive." My daughter's reaction led me to adjust the opening phrase to, "No one has the stomach for a smiley face anymore!" This has been a hallmark of my conversations on this topic ever since.

      In our latest book, Dr. Robert Brooks and I emphasize that the power of "Chasing Positivity" does not mean we minimize or ignore feelings such as anger, sadness or disappointment expressed by a client or a team member (or that we experience). Rather, you should acknowledge, validate and address such feelings, unless you want to risk clients or team members feeling you are not hearing or respecting them, which will intensify emotions and contribute to a rupture in the relationship.

      Recently, Dr. Brooks and I were texting back and forth on a wonderful article, "Time to ditch 'toxic positivity,' experts say: 'It's okay not to be okay.'"

      Dr. Brooks, a leading authority on resilience, shared this thought:

      "Some people incorrectly believe that positivity means ignoring or minimizing negative emotions. That is far from the truth. People are most resilient when they recognize, accept and cope with negative emotions and events."

      Bottom line: Although I still love my wife's search for the sprinkles, beware of existing and prospective clients' lack of tolerance for a "smiley face" and lead with genuine curiosity as you practice communicating empathically.