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By David RichmanNational Director, Eaton Vance Advisor Institute

Recently, my wife and I attended a beach party and wound up sitting next to a lovely couple. By peppering them with maybe a dozen questions along the way, we were lucky to hear their entire life story. Did they ask us one question? Well, there was one; however, the couple somehow used the answer my wife provided as a springboard to revert back to sharing more about their family. They didn't miss a beat.

Before the pandemic, our most dynamic workshop was a networking simulation we call "Making First Encounters Count." It provided an opportunity for advisors to be intentional in their approaches to developing new relationships. Tongue not so firmly planted in cheek, my typical advice was: "They would much rather tell you their story than listen to yours." This was BEFORE most of us spent more than a year hunkered down.

As we move beyond pandemic hibernation, is this observation even more pronounced? Through the dark days of the pandemic, it was clear that many people were starving for connection, thirsty for conversation. Today, it seems that perhaps conversation is not what many crave — rather, what they are most hungry for is someone who is willing to hear his or her story without needing to tell one's own. Why not be that person?

Let's suppose my wife is a financial advisor. How do you think she scored with this couple on the "visceral dimension" of trust? Quite simply, do you think this couple liked us? Do you think they would be open to a follow-up call? Absolutely!

Bottom line: In a sea full of people wanting to tell their stories, you can stand out by being one of the few who are willing to give a good listen.