Sunday, January 29, 2012

You should never let anyone verbally intimidate you. This is true for all your personal relationships, but it is also true for all of your business relationships.

In native cultures, medicine men wielded great power because of the community’s belief that they have magical powers. To reinforce this impression they created fanciful words and phrases which only they could understand. The idea is “If you do not understand what I am saying, how can you doubt my power?”

Unfortunately, we, today, have groups of people who use the same theory. Think — doctors, lawyers, accountants, financial analysts and brokers. They do the same thing, they often wield power over their clients by verbally intimidating them.

Sometimes, they do so to save time. By talking over their clients' heads (but with authority), they can often prevent their clients from asking questions that require long and complicated answers.

Sometimes, they use jargon to trick their clients into doing something they would probably not do if they understood this matter, and sometimes, they speak cryptically to maintain what they view as a desirable superiority over their clients.

We tend to act as if it is our jobs to please the doctors, lawyers, and brokers … not the other way around. We are always on our best behavior, grateful, self-effacing since we do not understand medicine, the law, or finance and are in no position to tell them what to do. We, many times, cannot evaluate the advice they give us. We feel like a know-nothing. They are omniscient. All we can do is be a good boy and hope they treat us kindly.

This is a costly mistake. We may end up undergoing unnecessary medical treatments, spend big money on contracts that are overly complicated and to make investments that we instinctively know will never be profitable.

We need to be diligent about standing up for ourselves with these professionals. In every interaction we have with them we need to remind ourselves that we are the boss and they work for us.

Here are some suggestions on ways you can gain control of all your professional relationships:

Change the way you think about professionals.

Many people (consciously or not) put professionals on pedestals of reverence. They accord them respect and courtesies they do not give to plumbers, say, or other tradesmen. As a result, they are reluctant to question the advice they get, or worse, they feel compelled to follow it out of some sense of submissive gratitude.

The truth is, doctors, lawyers, and brokers are nothing more than tradesmen. They have knowledge and skills that they sell. To earn their fees, they must work hard and well for you.

Make yourself “the boss of you.”

Promise yourself that, starting today, you will not let them bully you – and that you will actively and consciously "be the boss."

Rather than think, "Gee, he's such an expert"… think, "I am paying this guy good money. He better prove to me he is an expert or I will fire him."

When you get advice, instead of thinking, "I had better do what he says or he may be mad at me"… think, "This guy may know his field of expertise, but he does not know me. I am the best and sole judge of what is best for me. Only I am qualified to decide what I should do."

Evaluate the professionals you are using.

  1. Do they make you feel like you are in charge?A good professional relationship is one where the client is the boss and he feels like the boss. You should be able to figure out how you feel about the professionals that you use instantaneously.If you do not feel in charge, you aren't. If you do not feel you can speak frankly about any fears and concerns you have, you are not in charge. If you do not feel free to criticize them, you are not in charge.Here is what you need to understand: The only way you can feel like the boss is if the professional feels like you are the boss. If he does not – if he thinks you are just another schmuck who needs his help – you will never be in charge.  
  2. Do they give you advice that is easy to understand?A good professional feels obliged to communicate clearly with his clients. That means translating the arcane language of his profession into advice that can be readily understood.You can determine whether your broker, doctor, or lawyer has a commitment to communication by asking:"Do I feel like I spend enough time with him? Or do I feel like he is usually busy, and I'm taking up his precious time?"When he sends you documents, does he often attach a cover letter that explains, in layman's terms, what the documents say?Do you frequently feel lost or confused when he gives you advice? This should rarely happen… and when it does, you should feel free to ask questions and get clear, understandable answers.  
  3. Do they understand and care about your concerns and needs?A good professional does not treat all his clients exactly the same. He understands that each client has his own specific concerns, worries, problems, and needs. A good professional takes time to understand this and tailors his advice accordingly.If you feel like you are getting cookie-cutter advice, or if you feel like he does not really care who you are, he is not doing his job.

What to do to make things right …

How do you now feel about the professionals who are working for you? Are you feeling a bit upset? Have you realized that you may be getting less from them than you deserve?

If so, here is what I suggest. Call or e-mail the offending party and say you want to have a 15-minute meeting about your "professional relationship." If they ask why, say you want to talk about whether "the value I'm getting is worth the money I'm paying."

If he refuses to have the meeting, you do not need to put another thought into it. He is not doing his job. Get rid of him.

If he does give you a meeting, go in prepared. In just a few simple sentences (that you have prepared beforehand), tell him exactly how and why you are dissatisfied. Do not be judgmental. Express your concerns as statements of your future expectations. In other words, do not say, "You talk in an intimidating way." Instead, say, "I want crystal-clear explanations of all your advice and full and clear answers to all my questions. Can you provide me with that?"

That is really all you have to do. If you end up "firing" someone, do not spend a moment regretting it. Just go out and find someone new and better.

Find that person by interviewing him. In the first meeting, list your expectations and ask him if he can meet them.

Be the boss. It is your body, your business, and your money.

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