Being highly intelligent, decent, kind, caring and motivated to act in your client’s best interest doesn’t always prevent you from making a common error of judgment.
“Obvious” assumptions are often wrong
Some of you may believe your superior knowledge of investing and financial planning gives you greater insight than it actually does. This story illustrates my point. It’s from a blog by Nicholas Epley, the John Templeton Keller Professor of Behavior Science and Faculty Director of the Center for Decision Research at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
According to Epley, in 2010 the Obama administration was considering a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which banned gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. A key component weighing on the mind of decision-makers was how reversing this policy would impact the morale of our soldiers.
What better resource to gauge this impact than 1,167 retired military officers? They wrote an open letter opposing the repeal, stating:
“Our past experience as military leaders leads us to be greatly concerned about the impact of repeal on morale, discipline, unit cohesion, and overall military readiness. We believe that imposing this burden on our men and women in uniform would . . . eventually break the All-Volunteer Force.”
Case closed, right? No one want wants to “break the All-Volunteer Force.”
Rather than blindly accepting this view, the Pentagon surveyed the soldiers directly. It asked 115,052 soldiers and 44,266 of their spouses for their opinion. Here’s how Epley summarized the results of this survey:
“The soldiers themselves expressed relatively few concerns. In fact, 70 percent believed that the repeal would have no effect or a positive effect on the military. More telling, roughly the same number (69 percent) said that they had worked with a gay service member already. Among those, 92 percent said it had no effect or a positive effect on the unit’s ability to work together.”
The policy was repealed. The soldiers turned out to be correct. After one year, no impact on the morale of the military was found. The repeal was considered a “non-event.”
A cautionary note
It’s easy to assume you know what others are thinking. It’s also very dangerous.
You probably don’t know what’s on the mind of a prospect, or whether what you are saying is of any interest. You may not even know what your spouse would like to do on your anniversary.
We think we know what others want, but often we’re just projecting our own feelings.
Here’s how you can avoid misunderstandings based on faulty assumptions: Ask.
Just because someone is in a position to understand the feelings of others, doesn’t mean they do. The retired military officers were acting in good faith. They thought they knew how soldiers would feel about repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
They were dead wrong.
Resource of the week
The blog I referenced by Nicholas Epley is an eye-opener. I highly recommend it.