By Molly Balunek
Throughout my career providing financial planning services to individuals and families, I have learned to communicate with people who are older than I am. Early in my career (I was about 30) a client said to the owner of the firm, “She is younger than my daughter who doesn’t know anything. Why would I take advice from someone so young?” He answered her question by describing our team approach and emphasized the importance of building knowledge and experience within the client relationship. I was stung, but appreciated the way in which he handled this interaction. Some years later, this client acknowledged that she valued our relationship and the ways in which I had grown. Perhaps she had grown, too.
A few years later, I met Naomi Feil. It was about 20 years ago, and she was frequently traveling to teach Validation around the world. She showed me how to communicate with honesty and vulnerability, building trust with every conversation. Every time I speak with her, I learn more about how to listen and how to meet each client where they are in that moment.
The principles of Validation that apply most directly to communication about money include:
- Listening with empathy fosters trust, reduces anxiety, and restores dignity.
- Painful feelings expressed, acknowledged, and validated by a trusted listener will diminish, while those ignored or suppressed will intensify.
Money is emotional, with fear as the most influential emotion for most people. Validation encourages acknowledging painful feelings by talking about them, and financial planning provides a framework to alleviate fears while taking the actions necessary to meet goals.
When I was invited to join the Board of Directors of the Validation Training Institute, it was in part to bring a financial perspective to the development of the Endowment Fund and Campaign. A delightful and rewarding additional benefit is the ability to learn more about Validation and how to practice it, and to be a part of an organization that improves so many lives in such a meaningful way.
Our business is built around long-term relationships over decades. As our clients age, their needs, hopes, goals and fears about their money change, too. These changes occur in everyone: those with cognitive decline, those with physical decline, and those who simply get older. The validation tools I have learned to use in my communication with aging clients help maintain trust with them and build trusting relationships with their families when they become more involved with the finances. Validation has become a central part of our business, and our clients’ lives are better because of it.