Listen Up! Six Self-Sabotage Scenarios to Skip - Skip to content

Listen Up! Six Self-Sabotage Scenarios to Skip


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There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, of an exceedingly wise and well-loved therapist. All day long, his patients would arrive for their appointments distraught and leave an hour later beaming with relief, thanking him profusely. In reality, what this therapist did was what he didn’t do: instead of offering sage advice, he nodded, appearing to listen deeply as he encouraged his patients to unburden themselves. At the end of each day, he would call to his assistant in the outer office, “Gertrude! You can bring me my hearing aids now.”

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While amusing, this tale contains a kernel of wisdom: you will be considered a great listener if you truly listen, rather than only appear to listen.

As we’ve discussed in our ongoing series on listening, including The Plateau Effect, Minding Your Mobile Manners and The Art of Socratic Selling, listening well is the cornerstone of successful selling. Most people, however — including those who grew up to become reverse mortgage professionals — were not trained in the art of deep listening along with their ABCs. It’s a complex process, not unlike being an experienced counselor. Listening well entails:

  • Concentration
  • Patience
  • Interpretation of ideas
  • Identifying non-verbal cues

The majority of business problems arise as a result of poor communication, which leads to misunderstandings and mistakes. See whether any of these six self-sabotage scenarios applies to you and your reverse mortgage business:

  • Grade “D”. Your prospect is describing a situation you’ve heard a hundred times before, and you get distracted by thoughts of how you’re doing financially for the quarter. If your earnings stay at this level you can probably buy that new sports car by summer, and…oops, what did you just miss?
  • Wait problem. It was tough to do as children, and for many people it’s still a challenge as adults: waiting till it’s their turn to talk. If you leap into the opening the second your client pauses for breath, you’re not really listening.
  • Fakin’ it. You appear to be interested, but actually you’re just waiting for the opportunity to paint a glowing picture of the reverse mortgage opportunity. Unwise. Most people — especially the “chronologically gifted”, who have had a lifetime of practice — can sense when you don’t really care about what they’re sharing.
  • Skipping the “bad” parts. You can fast-forward through the boring segments of a DVD or skip the songs you don’t like on a CD, but if you listen selectively to your reverse mortgage prospects, you’re not getting the full picture of their needs or how you can best serve them.
  • Body blindness. Your client says he wants to move forward, but his body is stiff, and he’s not making eye contact. Or your prospect warmly tells you how much she likes the new HECM, but the smile doesn’t quite reach her mouth. These non-verbal cues tell you what their words omit.
  • Filters are for coffee. Filters can hinder your effectiveness. Looking through the lens of past experience, judgments based on appearance, or personal belief systems can create a wall between you and your prospect that hinders effective communication.

When you listen fully, patiently, noticing non-verbal cues without judgment or assumption, you’re well on your way to building the kind of client rapport the therapist appeared to have with his patients. Except yours will be real, because you’re hearing every word.



Editor in Chief:
As a prominent commentator and Editor in Chief at, Shannon Hicks has played a pivotal role in reshaping the conversation around reverse mortgages. His unique perspectives and deep understanding of the industry have not only educated countless readers but has also contributed to introducing practical strategies utilizing housing wealth with a reverse mortgage.
Shannon’s journey into the world of reverse mortgages began in 2002 as an originator and his prior work in the financial services industry. Shannon has been covering reverse mortgage news stories since 2008 when he launched the podcast HECMWorld Weekly. Later, in 2010 he began producing the weekly video series The Industry Leader Update and Friday’s Food for Thought.
Readers wishing to submit stories or interview requests can reach our team at:

Leave a Comment


  1. These are all good things to practice and incorporate; however, our goal is not being patient, problem solvers, or unbiased and thoughtful listeners but rather going further, much further, and establishing trust. Without trust, it is hard for our clients to hear what we say no matter how good we are at reading body language or understanding their problems. Without trust psychologists are not very effective and neither are reverse mortgage originators.

    Without understanding our goal, the process of getting there is just another road we have traveled with no objective reached.

  2. Agreed. We’ve covered the importance of building trust in other posts, and will again as this is such a valuable area.

    • Amara,

      Your article is very much on point as to an important part of the process of getting to trust. For many, that process is difficult to define, describe, or articulate. So in no way am I demeaning your excellent article.

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