Say a client has been overspending on his credit card. You have a chat about it, and he leaves your office, assuring you that he’s going to rein it in. But at your next meeting, he hasn’t decreased excessive spending and he seems frustrated.
Why is your client acting like this? Perhaps it’s because he felt threatened when you told him to curb his spending at the previous meeting. In this case, the SCARF model might come in handy.
David Rock developed the SCARF model, which is rooted in neuroscience, in a 2008 paper titled, “SCARF: A Brain-Based Model for Collaborating With and Influencing Others,” published by the NeuroLeadership Institute.
According to Rock, status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness (SCARF) are the five areas that activate our brains to think we are either being threatened or rewarded.
In Daniel Crosby’s keynote speech at the 2018 FPA Annual Conference, he spoke about how our brains are wired for survival and the decisions we make are to ensure that we do just that. Because of this, our brains can’t tell the difference between a well-meaning person who’s offering constructive feedback and somebody threatening our safety. So, here’s how SCARF can help you.
According to the Mindtools.com article, “David Rock’s SCARF Model: Using Neuroscience to Work Effectively with Others,” you can minimize threats and maximize rewards in the following ways to better help colleagues and clients:
This is our importance relative to other people. People like to feel important. Talk to your clients patiently and gently or frame your constructive feedback in a way that eliminates the so-called threat.
This is our ability to predict what’s going to happen next. If we are uncertain, we feel threatened and we can’t focus because we’re too busy trying to make sense of things. If what you’re explaining to your client is too complex and causes uncertainty, break it down for them.
This is our sense of control over things. Show your clients that you trust their judgment. Delegate, include them in decision-making, let them take on more responsibility and let them try new things.
This relates to how safe we feel with others. Connect with people. Build up a strong bond by scheduling regular meetings or check-ins.
This relates to how fair we think exchanges are between people. When people think things are unfair, they feel incredibly threatened. Minimize this by being honest and having clear expectations.
Ana Trujillo Limón is senior editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at [email protected], or connect with her on LinkedIn.