Calming an Uptight Partner

Beverly Flaxington

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

My partner puts me in an agitated state. He is always anxious and upset about something and everything is urgent. Some days I cannot even focus on my own work because his mood is up and down and he enters my office 10 times in an hour. He is a good friend and I respect his intelligence, but he gives me heartburn. Are there strategies I could employ to get him to calm down?

Name withheld

Dear Financial Advisor:,

First of all, the goal is not to get him to “calm down.” If you have an agitated, uptight and fast-moving person near you, about the worst thing you can do is tell him or her to calm down. If you have tried this, you may know what I mean. If you haven’t tried this, please don’t. Telling someone who is naturally fast-moving and tightly wired to calm down is like throwing gasoline on a fire.

It sounds to me like you have a behavioral disconnect going on. With behavioral styles, there are four metrics: problems, people, pace and procedures. Your partner sounds like he is high on the problems scale and low on the pace scale. This combination usually means someone is fast moving, thinks everything is urgent and gets angry and irritated if things are not moving fast enough. You might be the opposite on these scales. You probably prefer calm, logical and objective thinking. His irritation is upsetting to you, and your calm nature make him even more worried that you don’t care!

Here are a few things you can do:

  1. Have a conversation with him about behavioral style in an objective fashion. When he is in a calmer state, sit down and talk about the impact his approach has on you. Don’t accuse and make your approach “right” and his “wrong.” Instead, talk about impact. Ask if he experiences you to be less urgent and less involved. The more objective you can be, the more he might open up.
  2. Talk about ground rules for your office and working together. You might need to send him off during the day. Can he call on prospects, clients or centers of influence? Can he get to the gym and burn off some energy? Can he speak at some industry conference or local group to talk about your financial offerings?
  3. Practice developing your own insulated space. When he comes charging in, imagine or think about a plexi-glass surface that surrounds you and the space near you. You can see his upset mood, but his emotion stops at the plexi-glass. You don’t let it in to upset you but rather you focus on what he is saying and do your best to respond objectively.
  4. Get into a routine of meditation, deep breathing or positive self-talk. Practice every single day. This can help you stay respectful of your partner when he is upset without allowing yourself to be drawn in and triggered by it.
  5. Ask your partner to run the DISC behavioral profiles so you can see where you are the same and where you are different. It might be helpful to talk about the impact of those similarities and differences.

Dear Bev,

We recently switched to a split-fee structure. We now charge a separate fee for our advice and an ongoing fee for investment management. Clients are confused about this, and I don’t understand why. The two things are separate disciplines. What else can we do to help clients understand the value?

Greg F, New York City

Dear Greg,

Do you believe your offerings have value? Are you presenting the fee change with confidence and commitment? I can’t tell from your question if you were part of this decision or if it has been imposed upon you. In either event, the first step is believing that this is right and educating the client accordingly.

Remember that most people who are not in our industry don’t understand the jargon and the inner workings. A planner is probably the same as an investment manager to most wealthy people. It’s important to take the time to educate them about the steps in the process and show them the value of planning, as a separate activity.

Be sure you can clearly show a client where one process begins and the next part starts. If they believe it is one seamless experience, they may well push back on what could appear to be an increase in their overall fees.

Also, be prepared to do just planning or just investment management for some clients. It is very difficult to break these out and then not expect clients to break them out from a purchasing perspective.

Good luck!

Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry in 1995; in 2008 she co-founded Advisors Trusted Advisor to offer dedicated practice management resources to advisors, planners and wealth managers. She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate students Leadership & Social Responsibility. Beverly is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).

She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal,, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.

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