by Mitch Anthony

Doors open and close in our lives because of emotional intelligence—or its absence. Think of any doors that have been slammed in your face and assess the approach you used. Was your approach emotionally intelligent? Probably not. More than likely, someone took offense at your approach, took a hold of the door handle, and slammed it shut! Conversely, look at the doors that have opened and have paid rich dividends. Chances are your approach was different—and you reaped rewards for doing so.

The door of awareness in your brain swings open and closes in synchronicity with the doors that open and close in the material world. That door of awareness stands between your emotional and rational self. When this door closes, the emotional part of the brain can sabotage and pollute your efforts. The rational part of your brain then begins to rationalize every word and deed you used to sabotage and pollute your own efforts. With this door of awareness closed, you are vulnerable to make poor decisions, expending rational energy just to justify those decisions.

When this door of awareness in the brain opens, however, the emotional and rational sectors of the brain begin to act in harmony. The emotional part of the brain becomes subservient to the rational. Emotional energy is channeled in healthy and productive ways, and you become a much easier person for others to deal with because you are more at ease with yourself.

The doors to success are opened by being aware of the issues that can derail your pursuits and relationships. Five key areas to be aware of if you want to succeed as a financial advisor are:

Others (empathy)
Working with others (building rapport)

The acronym ARROW serves as a metaphor for what stands between you and your targets.

Everyone is concerned with targets, including your clients. To more effectively reach those targets, you need to have the ability to navigate the emotional landscape with clients and to keep your own negative emotions in check.

Think of goals as your target, and emotional competencies as the arrow that will help you reach that target. If your arrow is crooked or broken, chances are you will not hit your target. Without a straight arrow, everything else is futile and will only lead to frustration—for yourself and your clients.

Following are descriptions of the five competencies that, if mastered, will help you excel in emotional intelligence: personal awareness, restraint, resilience, empathy, and building rapport.


Awareness affects your relationships with clients, colleagues, and team members—and your suitability for being an advisor. Introspection leads to awareness, which in turn leads to improvement. Some of the questions to ask yourself include:

  • What emotional factors differentiate the good advisors from the great ones?
  • Why do I have an easier time connecting with some people and a more difficult time connecting with others?
  • Why do some personality styles cause me an inordinate amount of stress and tension?
  • Do some aspects of my personality and approach act as a turnoff to others?
  • How do I recognize and compensate for the natural liabilities in my personality makeup?

Awareness means you are willing to see yourself from someone else’s perspective. You must also become aware of your strengths and learn to put those strengths in the driver’s seat. As the famed coach John Wooden put it, you must learn how to not “let the things you are not good at get in the way of things you are good at.”


Have you ever had one of those nights where you beat yourself up over something you wished you hadn’t said that day? Is there a memory that causes you to cringe with embarrassment because of an emotional outburst that seemed justified at the time because you were all stirred up? We’ve all had these moments in our lives because of a lack of restraint.

You can unintentionally create a “stress mess” in your life by not having a game plan for managing your moods, events, nerve-wracking situations, and challenging people. Once you become aware of what is going on chemically and emotionally in your brain at those moments, you will be better prepared to manage feelings of anger, hostility, disrespect, and embarrassment.

If, however, you are not aware of how your negative emotions impact others, your relationships can become adversely affected. Without restraint, you allow yourself to be dragged down into a virtual cesspool of negative emotions.

Restraint is the powerful emotional skill that keeps destructive emotions in check. Restraint also prevents you from barging ahead in situations that require patience—not pushing too fast or getting ahead of clients. Those who possess restraint and continue to nurture this skill move to unprecedented levels of self-confidence and relationship-building skills.

Negative emotions cannot be entirely avoided—there will always be people who manage to tick us off. However, the degree to which we are affected by their actions—our reaction—is regulated by emotional intelligence.


Let’s face it—being an advisor requires resilience. Each day in this profession you are expected to endure rejection, disappointment, inaccessibility, runarounds, difficult characters, and more (sometimes all before noon)—and come back smiling and energized for your next client.

No doubt some people are equipped with thicker skin than others, but that does not mean resilience is strictly a gift of genetics. While a degree of resilience seems to be imprinted by nature, a large degree of resilience—or the lack thereof—is a learned behavior of attitude, logic, and response.

Resiliency may be the single most important emotional factor affecting your success as an advisor. Without resilience, it’s easy to fall prey to self-sabotaging messages that grow from the soil of failure and disappointment.

Resiliency requires you to master the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation—the best advisors are intrinsically motivated individuals. Extrinsically motivated advisors are quick to lose motivation, experience burnout, and are more susceptible to feelings of insignificance with their work.

Others (Empathy)

Empathy, a cornerstone of emotional intelligence, is a highly misunderstood term. When people think of the word empathy, they usually think first about sympathy and compassion. However, the concept of empathy is much broader in scope than simply feeling for, or with, someone. Empathy is about understanding what people want and understanding their situation. Empathy is about being able to read the signals that people are sending in the course of a discussion.

I like to define empathy as emotional radar. Those of you who have developed this skill are able to read between the lines of dialogue and discern a client’s motivations. This sense of emotional radar is what some would call political smarts—the ability to recognize the payoffs that will make each party feel good about the transaction at hand.

Empathy involves knowing how to read body and tonal language. Subtle but reliable signals, advertised in the face, eyes, posture, and rhythms of speech, expose what people really think about what you are saying. This observational skill is an indispensable tool in the empathy arsenal.

Once you learn to overcome the narcissistic urge—the impulse that constantly tries to bring attention and recognition back to yourself—you can begin to develop keen intuitive senses that comprise the emotional competency known as empathy. This narcissistic urge (common to all of us) may be our worst enemy in the process of building productive relationships.

Working with Others (Building Rapport)

Your success as an advisor doesn’t rest on your ability to simply regurgitate what you have been taught, but rather on your ability to build rapport with others and persuade them to act. This is true whether you are just beginning your career or you are overseeing a team of people.

Likability is surprisingly quantifiable and is imperative to building the long-term rapport necessary for successful business relationships. How successful can your relationship be with your clients if they cringe every time they hear from you (or you cringe at the thought of speaking with them)?

Every personality uniquely challenges how to tailor one’s approach and presentation. Dealing with the quirks and idiosyncrasies of each particular style takes constant adjustment. I have spent years researching this phenomenon within the financial services industry. Each core personality style has a unique emotional agenda that must be met in order to be successful.

Plenty of advisors are terrific at building rapport—until that rapport is threatened. At that point, they go MIA because the negative flipside of the winsome personality is to run for the hills and avoid conflict when anything negative gets in the way. To enjoy lasting success as an advisor, it is essential to develop the emotional aptitude to successfully navigate through disagreements, misunderstanding, and opposing points of view.

Lead, Don’t Manage

It’s important to understand that you manage processes—but you lead people. It’s dangerous to make decisions and establish agendas without asking, “How will this idea play out emotionally?” Emotionally intelligent advisors understand the importance of that question and proceed with a high regard for emotional impact and consequences.

The topic of emotions is a complex landscape, but there are simple rules for becoming a positive emotional force. The first and foremost of these rules is to keep your eyes and ears open. Become an observer of yourself first. By understanding your own personality, as well as that of your clients and colleagues, you will be a better—and more successful—financial advisor.

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Adapted from Selling With Emotional Intelligence by Mitch Anthony. ©2003 Mitch Anthony. Published by Kaplan Publishing.

© 2014 Mitch Anthony

Mitch Anthony is the founder and president of Advisor Insights Inc. and the Financial Life Planning Institute, the leading provider of financial life planning tools and programs.

For almost two decades, Mitch and his team have provided training and development for both individual advisors and major organizations throughout the world. Mitch personally consults with many of the largest and most-recognizable names in the financial services industry on both financial life planning and relationship development.

Mitch has been named one of the financial services industry’s top “Movers & Shakers” for his pioneering work, and is interviewed by the media on a regular basis. The Institute is partnering with both Texas Tech University and the University of Georgia to develop financial life planning programs for their undergraduate programs. Mitch is a popular keynote speaker, columnist for Financial Advisormagazine and Journal of Financial Planning, and host of the daily radio feature, The Daily Dose, heard on over 100 radio stations nationwide.

Mitch is also the author of many groundbreaking books for advisors and consumers, including perennial bestseller StorySelling for Financial Advisors, cited by “Financial Advisor” magazine as the number one “must-read” book for financial professionals. Mitch’s other books include The New Retirementality (now in its 4th edition)From the Boiler Room to the Living Room, Your Clients for Life, Your Client’s Story, The Cash in the Hat, and The Bean is Not Green. For information on these books and more resources, click here. Contact Mitch at [email protected].