The Curse of Knowledge vs. the Gift of Expertise

Moira arms crossed

Too often people get bogged down by words.  In work settings, professional jargon can often intimidate and bore potential or existing clients.  In her latest article, change expert and financial psychologist Dr. Moira Somers provides us with tips on how to keep your message relatable and your clients engaged. Her advice is valuable for any business person looking to better connect with their customers. 


In the last issue of the FP Standard, I discussed one of the main reasons why good clients often ignore great financial advice: namely, the Curse of Knowledge. Too often, CFP professionals use highly specialized, technical language in their meetings with clients. This problem not only interferes with effective communication, but also reduces the likelihood that clients will follow through with your advice.

Learn more about Dr. Somers’ presentations and her interest in the factors that influence advisor client relationships and  Why Good Clients Ignore Great Advice

The solution is obvious. Eschew obfuscation. Oops! I mean, use plain language. Here are a few ways to boost the likelihood that your clients will understand your recommendations.

  1. Review every piece of written information you hand out to clients. Wherever possible, cut out the professional jargon. If you use third-party sources to send out market updates or financial news, bring the jargon problem to their attention. Challenge them to improve the readability of their reports.
  2. Ask people outside your field to take a look at your handouts. The ideal reviewers would be members of your ideal client group. Have them underline anything they don’t understand in your documents. Then go back to the office and work on the materials until they’re more easily understood.
  3. Shorten your meetings with clients. The longer the meetings, the more likely they will begin to ‘glaze over’. This leads people to agree to things they do not understand and will not implement in the days to come.
  4. Before you end meetings, ask clients to explain your recommendations in their own words. This helps to ensure that you have a truly informed client, and gives you another chance to clear up misunderstandings.

Your education to become a CFP professional equipped you to bring truly valuable services to your community. But it also left you with the challenge of translating that knowledge into something non- professionals can understand. Keeping that challenge in mind helps you to turn the Curse of Knowledge into the Gift of Expertise.

© 2016 Financial Planning Standards Council. Republished with permission.


Not only is Dr. Somers a clinical neuropsychologist, a professor and a financial recovery expert, she is also a fantastic speaker, who combines the latest neuroscience research with practical, easy-to-implement advice.  While her titles may sound intimidating, she herself is approachable and funny, two things which she uses, alongside her expertise, to help people make lasting behavioral change. Contact us to book Moira for your next event.



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