by Nancy Kline 10/6/2008 4:05:00 PM

You cannot produce this level of invitation and safety for your clients to tell their stories unless you regard them as your thinking equal. As the professional mind, you are not the superior mind. Your client’s intelligence and ability to think about their life and future and legacy and plan are equal to yours. When you know that, really know that, you will listen differently and they will tell you different stories at deeper levels than if they sense the subtle disdain, infantilization and impatience, and need to show off that is the demeanor of the professional who assumes they are the client’s thinking superior.

So for a moment let’s look at Equality.

In fact, let’s back up. Let’s think about this: Do we really believe in Equality? Really? I mean really, as in cross our hearts?

Equality shows up in just about every official list of Values. Of course we believe in it. Equality, right at the top of the list. You know, the list of Values that hugely expensive consultants pull out of us and then print onto hugely expensive panels and mount along often hugely expensive walls.

Equality. Sounds good. Definitely looks good. And most days we think we mean it. But, for example, have you ever stopped yourself dead in your tracks on the way to a client meeting and thought, ‘Hmmm, now, do I really believe in Equality? Really? Are my client and I actually equal as Thinkers?”

No, you probably don’t stop and ask that. My experience of organizations and families and relationships is that they are not dotted with individuals suddenly immobilized by that question.
And, imagine, if we were to stop people in the halls ourselves and say, "Hi, uh, just a quick question—do you believe in Equality? I mean, really, really believe in it? Just curious." And smiled. How crazy would that look? (Actually, stopping anyone these days on the way to anything, even the bathroom, is regarded pretty much as an aggressive act. So add in that question and no telling how short your career there would be.)

So, do we believe in Equality? I wonder. I think we say we do, the way just about everyone said, “All men are created equal” and meant, “except for the slaves.” And even if we mean it a bit, enough to march for voting rights and equal pay for equal work and equal opportunity (whatever that means), what we most likely don’t mean is that we are all equal as thinkers.

When stopped in the hall, many professional advisers, if they didn’t lock us up first for asking, would say, “Actually, no, I don’t believe in equality of thinking; some people are simply better thinkers than others. And as a professional it is my job to do the thinking. I was educated to do that, and I get paid to do that. Now, please, have a good day.”

Here is an analogy: let’s equate the mind of our client with state-of-the-art equipment. Cost? A billion dollars. It has two switches, M and F. M for miniscule capacity; F for full capacity. Let’s decide at every meeting with a client to switch it to miniscule. Let’s waste 1 billion dollars every hour. How about it? This makes the nut in the hall asking the Equality question look pretty sane.
But, let’s say you say, okay, I need my client’s mind on full. “How then,” you ask, “do I make that happen? Because, believe me,” you say, “a lot of my clients can’t seem to string two original thoughts together even when I ask them to, and when I ask them questions, there is usually not an explosion of light bulbs, I can tell you that.”

No doubt. But do one simple thing, and light bulbs, both of ideas and of stories, will explode. Regard your client as your thinking equal. Really, really—as in cross your heart and hope to die. Because, once you truly regard them as your equal, you will listen differently, more deeply, more respectfully, with more ease, with no shred of impatience and no urgency to get the focus back onto your thinking.

Another word about us as Professionals. Our education simply does not prepare us for the critical fact that our clients are our thinking equals. If anything, our education nearly bludgeons us with messages of superiority, including the message that our future clients expect that superiority, too. That, in fact, is what they will pay us for. What is the point of the professional if the client can think and come up with answers just as well?

The point of the professional is to be a Thinking Environment for the client so that they can think for themselves brilliantly and discover the best way forward. The professional may also have information and experience to share that may be of great value. May be. Sometimes truly is. But that should be only about 30% of the interaction. Because when people go to professionals, whether for legacy and estate plans or a return to health or paths to reach goals, what they are really looking for first and most of all is a person who wants to know what they think, who they are, what matters to them, and what their life-shaping stories are. Only after all of that do they want to be given advice.

A professional’s first job—a leader’s first job—is to create the conditions for people to think for themselves, saturating it with implicit and explicit Equality. Professionals in all fields need to understand and act on this. Because, boy, can it cost, if it doesn't. Here's an example.

A surgeon, standing scrubbed with both gloved hands in the air, called for the scalpel. The faceless attendant handed it to him. The doctor settled the scalpel just over the left upper abdomen. His hand moved, revving before piercing. In spurts the voice of the attendant next to him squeaked, then spoke, "Dr. Jones, with all due respect, that is the wrong side." The doctor suspended his hand an inch over the body. He turned his head to find the head of the voice. He froze his eyes on the voice's eyes. "What did you say?” The attendant took the breath that precedes words. Before the words came, the doctor shouted, "I know what you said. And I caution you, don't ever, ever do that again. The attendant's hands began to shake. "But sir, it is the right kidney that is damaged." "I warn you, Ms. Reynolds. You are seriously out of line."

The doctor cut into the left side, removed the left kidney, ordered the patient sewn up, and then he returned to his rounds. The next day he was summoned to the hospital chief executive’s office and dismissed. Six months later his medical license was withdrawn. He had removed the healthy kidney.

Now that was expensive. And at fault there was only one tiny thing: the assumption of inequality. Sprinkled of course with avalanches of arrogance. Not an unusual combination. Similarly, the still worst airline crash in history, Tenerief 1977, seems almost certainly to have been caused by the pilot’s rejection of Equality in the cockpit. When, for the second time, the flight engineer questioned the pilot’s decision to take off in dense fog without firm clearance and unable to see another jumbo jet still on the runway, the pilot shouted at the engineer and accelerated full speed, cutting seconds later into the body of the other plane, killing 583 people.

Again the divesting of Equality and the donning of arrogance. A literally deadly combination. This is what can happen when Equality and Attention are missing between people.

Silent, Incisive Questions And Client Stories

by Nancy Kline 5/21/2008 11:48:00 AM

When you generate people’s trust, they hand you their stories.
When people tell you their stories, they hand you their trust.

Our clients’ stories are vital to the integrity of the plan we create for them, and to the longevity of their relationship with us.

Silent Incisive Questions And The Client's Stories

What makes people tell us their stories?

The question is not: What makes people talk? People will talk. People will talk even when they are frightened. Talking is not the point.

The question is: What makes people tell us what is in their hearts? What makes people tell us the stories that are shaping their lives, the stories that tell us what the best plan will be for them.


When a client comes through our office door, we shake hands with not just with a person, but also with thousands of stories.

Why do we want our clients’ stories? Because their stories are the clues to creating with them the perfect plan and legacy. Their stories are who they are. So we must invite the stories in.

Some of their stories show up immediately -- on their faces, in their eyes, in their handshake, in the way they sit in their chair, in the clothes they wear. But most of their stories need an invitation to join us.


What keeps the stories inside? Why do they need a special invitation to emerge?

Because along side the stories in our clients live untrue assumptions about their stories, about themselves, and about the very process of telling their stories. Some of these assumptions are:

  1. My adviser does not want to hear my stories; they are an indulgence and are irrelevant to the planning process.
  2. My stories are boring.
  3. My stories will reduce my adviser’s respect for me.
  4. If I tell my stories, I might have lots of feelings, I might even cry, and that is a sign of weakness.
  5. No one has stories as disturbing as mine.
  6. My stories don’t matter here.


In order for our clients to tell us the stories that are our clues to perfect planning and legacy for them, we have to remove those assumptions. We do this, not directly. We do this with extraordinary Attention for them from the first minute. Through this Attention we are asking them these silent Incisive Questions:

  1. If you knew that your stories that reveal who you uniquely are, are essential to our creating the perfect plan and legacy for you, what stories would you tell me about yourself?
  2. If you knew that your stories, all of them, are fascinating and interesting to me, how would you feel while telling me?
  3. If you knew that I will respect you more because of the stories you tell me about who you are, what story do you know you most need to tell me?
  4. If you knew that I know that stories are full of feeling and that feeling is full of intelligence, what stories would you not avoid?
  5. If you knew that there are stories far more alarming than yours, what difficult story would you tell me that will help us with your plan and legacy?

Those are the silent Incisive Questions that are implicit in our behavior with our clients, from the minute they come through the door. We produce these silent Incisive Questions by doing these things:

  1. First, we connect with the client, with our eyes, with our warm tone.
  2. Next, we tell them the story of our Process.
  3. We give them the Information that their authentic stories, regardless of what they are, are 1) the best route to the clues for perfect planning; 2) will only increase our respect for them.
  4. We promise them we will not interrupt them as they speak.
  5. We ask them questions that get them to focus on the relevant stories.
  6. We hush the clock in our heads and the internal clacking of document templates.
  7. We give them the highest quality Attention throughout, keeping our eyes on their eyes, maintaining a face and internal attitude of acceptance, composure, and deep interest; never shock or judgment or distance.
  8. We make certain not to take notes, nor to stop or interrupt them, even for clarification.
  9. We ask, when they say they are finished, “What more would you like to add or to say? And we give the same level of Attention while they think and speak next.
  10. We appreciate them during the session.

These behaviors keep them finding and telling their stories.

Most powerfully of all we give them Attention. We offer Attention unlike any they have ever had.

Soon, stories peek out between the curtains, scanning us with one eye at first. Checking out the quality and authenticity of this listening. And when they see that it is safe, when they notice the sincerity, and trust the promise of no interruption, when they feel our interest, they throw open the curtain, and dance.

And we are on our way to constructing the plan most expressive of our clients. And our clients are on their way to describing us to their friends and colleagues as the best planner on the planet.

Currently rated 1.8 by 51 people

  • Currently 1.80392/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Tags: , , , ,

BlogEngine.NET | Estate Planning

Incisive Questions™

by Nancy Kline 5/21/2008 11:36:00 AM

Advisors who know how to generate Incisive Questions™ to free their client’s mind from untrue limiting assumptions hold a key to creating the best plan.

Incisive Questions™

What happens when the mind breaks through?
What steps has it taken so quickly that we do not see the steps?

Simply put, this break-through process is the mind asking itself an Incisive Question.

Here is how it seems to work:

Our thinking, feeling, decision-making and action are driven by assumptions. The good ideas and feelings come from true liberating assumptions. The bad ones come from untrue limiting assumptions.

So, to breakthrough from bad to good, the mind seems to go through roughly this sequence of questions:

  1. What am I assuming that is limiting my thinking here?
  2. What am I assuming that is most limiting my thinking here?
  3. Is that assumption true?
  4. What is a liberating true alternative to the limiting assumption?
  5. If I knew (insert true alternative), what would I think or feel or do?

On paper this sounds pretty dry. But in practice it is one of the most scintillating and transformative things human beings do. The mind does it for itself in a flash when it can. When it can’t, it does it a bit more slowly, but just as powerfully, with the help of those five questions and extraordinary attention from another person.

For example, if your goal js to restructure your time, the first question is: What are you assuming that is stopping you from re-structuring your time? You find as many assumptions as you can. Then with questions 2 and 3, you find the key untrue assumption. Then through questions 4 and 5, you build an Incisive Question. And voila, your mind breaks through. A new, true, liberating reality emerges.


Begin to listen for the untrue limiting assumptions your clients are making as they speak. And construct an Incisive Question for them that will free them from it. Asked gently, an Incisive Question will open your clients’ minds and their hearts.


Transformative Listening

by Nancy Kline 5/21/2008 11:34:00 AM

The best financial plan emerges from the client’s best thinking, from their stories, and from the quality of their relationship with you. Transformative listening is a central part of this success.

Transformative Listening

To be interrupted is not good.
To get lucky and not be interrupted is better.
But to know you will not be interrupted allows you truly to think for yourself.

Transformative listening is nearly a work of art. It comes from genuine interest in where your client will go in their thinking, and from your courage to trust their intelligence.

In order to generate the best thinking from your clients, adopt this attitude and general behavior as you listen:

  • Settle back.
  • Let your client know that you will not interrupt them. Then don’t.
  • Trust that not uttering a word is one of the most effective things you can do.
  • Ask them if there is anything more they think or want to say.
  • Keep your eyes on their eyes as they speak.
  • Cultivate interest in what your client will say next.
  • Know that your job is to help your clients think for themselves, not to think for them.
  • Remember that the expression of feelings is often part of the thinking process.
  • Be aware that much of what they say will be the result of your effect on them.

In the quiet presence of your attention, respect, and ease important things can happen for the client. Fresh ideas can emerge; confusion can dissipate; painful feelings can subside; creativity can explode. It does not matter if you already know what your client is about to say before they have said it -- do not interrupt them or stop them. What matters is what happens for them because they say it.

Enjoy the expertise of Transformational Listening. It is subtle, but powerful. And it can generate the finest thinking from your clients and a relationship with them for life.

We need to be more drivingly interested in what is real and true for our clients
than we are frightened of being proved wrong.


Currently rated 5.0 by 3 people

  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5


Who Is The Expert?

by Nancy Kline 5/21/2008 11:30:00 AM

You, the Advisor, have expertise. Lots of it. You studied for it, paid for it, developed it, have been honored and rewarded for it. You charge for it. You and your clients rely on it.

This obvious expertise your clients want is financial, technical, legal, transactional knowledge.

But there is another expertise they want from you. It is the not-so-obvious ability to be a Thinking Environment every minute for them. They want this. They will choose you over other Advisors if you provide it. They want to think for themselves. They want to figure things out, say things, discover things, create things they have never had access to before. They want to be asked. They want to be listened to, exquisitely.

But when they make their first appointment, they do not tell you that this expertise is more important to them than all the rest.

So when your client enters your office, it is vital to remember that there are now two experts in the room.

You know your field and they know their life. But most important, as the expert in the Thinking Environment you liberate the expert in them. The result is a plan of extraordinary value.

Creating a Thinking Environment for your clients so that they can think for themselves about both the technical and the transcendent aspects of planning is to catalyze two kinds of expertise into a breath-taking and life-changing experience.






This blog will help you think better and present ways that you can help others think better. It’s about a methodology I created, teach, and documented in my book, Time To Think. The quality of everything people do depends on the thinking we do first. Therefore, creating a “Thinking Environment” is the first responsibility of leadership. The Time To Think methods are used at Time Warner, Pfizer, Shell, The BBC, The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development, and many other organizations. This blog provides information about the 10 behaviors necessary to create a Thinking Environment, our coaching services and other programs, and is part of an effort to help make the world better.


Nancy KlineNancy Kline
President, Time To Think

Nancy Kline is creator of Time To Think, a process that increases quality of thinking and results in all human interactions. The author of a book about her methodology, Ms. Kline also runs an international leadership development and coaching company….(more)

E-mail me Send mail

© Copyright 2016

Sign in