I Just Lost My Job, What Do You Say Next

I Just Lost My Job, What Do You Say Next

If you lose your job, what kind of emotional support might you expect or want from your financial planner? Or, to flip the question, as a financial planner or therapist, what kind of emotional support would you offer to a client who just lost a job?

From the financial professional’s side of the desk (which could also apply to anyone wanting to support a friend or family member through a financial setback), my first response would be, “I don’t know. I need to ask the client.”

Because every client could have a different expectation. Some of them might just need to be heard and affirmed for the feelings they are having. Others might need data. Others might need both. And the only way the advisor or therapist can know is to ask.

This starts with asking what the client is feeling rather than assuming you know. They might feel sad, afraid, or angry. Or they might feel relief, happiness, or excitement about the future. They are likely to feel some combination of emotions, including ones that seem contradictory.

It is important not to tell someone what you think they feel. Instead, help them explore their own emotions with questions such as, “What is this like for you? Could you tell me more about what you’re experiencing?”

Many people don’t have the emotional intelligence to immediately say, “I’m feeling X, or Y, or whatever.” They may need to talk through what’s going on as part of the process to identify their emotions.

It is not helpful to say something like, “You must be scared.” The intent may be to show empathy, but the message this conveys is, “You should be scared.” If the person is actually feeling relief or anger, they may not feel comfortable enough to share those emotions because of a sense that what they feel is “wrong.” It is more effective to say, “I’m curious about how you’re feeling,” or, “I wonder if you’re feeling scared about this.”

Then it is crucial to listen without jumping in with advice. Someone who has just lost a job or experienced some other setback often needs someone who will listen without giving advice, minimizing their feelings, assuring them they’ll be okay, interrupting them, or sharing similar experiences of their own. From time to time, you can briefly summarize what you’ve heard, to be sure that you are hearing them correctly and to help them know that they’re being listened to. And one of the best responses when you really want to listen deeply is, “Tell me more.”

Once the person has had a chance to be heard, then it might be time to ask, “What do you need from me? How can I best support you in this moment?” At this point, it’s possible that the person is open to receiving more information or advice. Again, do not assume that to be the case. It’s usually best to wait until they ask before you launch into data and logic. Once they have processed their emotions, they may be ready to begin hearing financial details and to consider possible paths forward.

Check out The Financial Therapy Podcast by Rick Kahler concerning this topic.

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