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The Plateau Effect


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Pay Attention! The Plateau Effect

Have you seen some of the new ads for safe driving? They’re rather chilling. One shows a car and a truck on a collision course, with the caption, “What happens when you text and drive.” A sign making the rounds on the back of buses shows a car careening towards a pole with the caption, “Park the phone while you drive.”

The Plateau Effect: Getting from Stuck to Success

Clearly, multitasking is overrated, as the authors of a powerful new book, The Plateau Effect: Getting from Stuck to Success make resoundingly apparent with humor backed by solid science. Chapter 7, Attention, is especially compelling reading for reverse mortgage professionals, or indeed anyone who serves seniors. The chapter details the results of test-taking skills among children and adults. Guess who scores best? Yes, the kids. But not just because they’ve been in test-taking mode more recently. Young children, whose brains are less developed and hence more pliable, become completely engrossed in what’s right in front of them (ever watch a small child examine a stone or flower for what seems like forever but is really about 20 seconds?).

Adults, on the other hand, allow their fully developed brains to be easily distracted, and all the digital digressions now available only exacerbate the problem. Few people can sit though a speech these days without Tweeting or texting. These listening plateaus mean your senior clients and prospects are not receiving the full attention they deserve — which is not only frustrating, but could lead to the reverse mortgage equivalent of a car crash if you don’t catch crucial information, mishear something, or neglect to ask a key question that impacts the elder’s home, health or finances.

What’s more, authors Bob Sullivan and Hugh Thompson emphasize, women are much better than men at listening — though the men in the study cited were aware of this, and rated themselves as “average or below average listeners.”

Additionally, Sullivan and Thompson point out that what’s getting lost in the listening deficit is recognition of emotional context: what gives the same content completely different meaning in different situations. Peak listening — listening beyond data gathering and without mentally preparing your response — means being open and empathic to the person in front of you and what they have to share. Even if you think you’ve heard it all before.

What someone actually says may surprise you if you don’t have a pre-formed idea of what the words mean, or assume you know what’s going to come out of their mouth because that’s what 90 percent of your clients say. This approach is radical, takes some mental retraining — and will pay off in spades (and hearts!) with grateful clients who receive precisely the care, support, loan or referral they need.

As a refresher, you can review our earlier posts on Minding Your Mobile Manners (put that phone away before the meeting!), Listening Your Way to A Sale and The Art of Socratic Selling. Please give these articles your undivided attention. Your clients (and possibly your life partner as well) will appreciate the effort.


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  1. One of the worst responses people make is that they know what their clients’ needs are and then list them. We all know that basic needs must be met but to what degree do those needs vary by senior? Going into a setting with preconceived notions is hardly productive.

    Many originators will land deals almost no matter what but carefully listening could provide even more.

  2. Very true, The Cynic! We all learned in grade school what happens when we assume…

  3. Part of the listening process is observing the body language that goes along with what your client is expressing. Also you need to be watching the spouse’s expressions at the same time. Both speak volumes.

  4. Amara,

    Perhaps not all remember that lesson.

  5. Thanks, Dick and James. That’s what this column is often about: being a useful “memory trigger” for what we already know. I appreciate your feedback.

  6. Thanks for another very interesting article.

    I looked in my “Amara Rose” file that I keep, and I found the copy of the article that you wrote back in March “Listening Your Way To a Sale”.

    I just re-read it, and it’s excellent!

    And as I’ve told you before, I have a copy of “The Art of Socratic Selling” on my bulletin board.

    Keep up your excellent work.


  7. Dear Owen ~

    I am grateful for your continued support, and honored that you post these pieces to your office bulletin board for ongoing inspiration. Your colleagues can take a leaf from your practice to boost their professional acumen, for both client and prospect benefit!


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