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How About a Tutu?

Anika Hedstrom

AS ANYONE WHO HAS spent time around kids can attest, emotions often run high when things don’t go according to plan. Recently, my three-year-old daughter, Carter Rose, refused to brush her teeth, wear clothes or go to school.

Rather than going head-to-head with an emotional toddler, I took the approach of listening, compassion and empathy to get things back on track. What was wrong—and what could make things better?

We could all use a little more empathy these days. With continued worries about the direction of the economy, house-buying dreams on pause indefinitely because of higher mortgage rates, and investment portfolios continuing to reflect red numbers, it’s understandable if folks feel frustrated and uncertain.

It’s times like these when my financial-planning clients turn to me to feel heard. They want me to provide reassurances that, despite life not always going as expected, we can still work together to make sure everything turns out okay.

For instance, I recently met with a client who’s a few years from retirement. He was curious how the current market may influence his planned retirement date and the timing of other spending, including a home remodeling. He wanted to know if he’d still be okay.

I first acknowledged his feelings and let him know he isn’t alone. I then punted on other items I’d planned to discuss, instead spending the majority of our meeting talking through his concerns and questions. Knowing he appreciates a visual approach, I shared my computer screen so we could revisit his plan. This allowed him to see how I was adjusting inputs and assumptions to make the plan more conservative and to play with some “what ifs.” This provided him with a dose of needed confidence.

Ditto for Carter Rose. Once I crouched down to her three-foot level, looked her in the eye, and showed her warmth and validation, a creative and effective solution became possible. The post-meltdown result can be seen in the accompanying photo.

Okay, maybe red cowboy boots, a tutu and a fourth of July headband aren’t what you need to turn your feelings of uncertainty into confidence. Still, we all stand to benefit from creative solutions—and finding those solutions often begins with giving folks a chance to be heard.

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