In Dan Solin’s new book, Ask: How to Relate to Anyone, the New York Times bestselling author has some advice for financial advisors armed with facts, figures and arguments for their next prospective client meeting: Stop talking.

The way Dan sees it, we are making a mistake trying to be the most interesting person in the room (although he acknowledges “The Most Interesting Man in the World” carved out a niche). In the following exclusive Q&A with the Wealth Advisor Alliance, Dan explains why the research confirms that better conversations are built on a foundation of thoughtful questions.

Q&A With Dan Solin

1—When we enter a room or a virtual meeting, whether it is for networking or a client meeting, what can we do to be more interesting and engaging?

Don’t try to be the most interesting person in the room, because that effort is likely doomed to failure. Be the most interested.

Instead of conveying information and demonstrating our expertise, wit and charm, we should elicit information from the other person. It’s so easy to do. Just ask thoughtful follow-up questions seeking elaboration on what they said to you. When you empower others to speak — especially about themselves — you can be confident you’re engaging them.

2—What about the “The Most Interesting Man in the World” (from the Dos Equis beer commercials)? Could he be the exception to the rule in succeeding as most interesting versus most interested?

Actually, that well-known commercial validates the importance of being interested. The famous line spoken by the actor in that commercial is: “Stay thirsty, my friends.” It has been interpreted to mean, “stay thirsty, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.” You can be “thirsty” by asking questions, which requires a high level of curiosity.

Put aside your agenda and focus on the other person. This can only be done by listening and understanding; not by talking. The common element here is this: It’s not all about us. We deepen our relationships by sublimating our ego and showing a genuine interest in others.

3—You noted that financial advisors may be posing open-ended questions, but they are asking all the wrong ones. Where are they going astray?

Have you ever gone shopping for a car and experienced a salesperson who asked you: How quickly are you prepared to write a check if you find the car you like? That is a question, but it creates stress and anxiety.

The “right” questions aren’t loaded. They don’t try to steer the conversation in any direction. Instead, they are intended to provide you with an understanding of the other person. What’s their story? How did they get to where they are? When you listen carefully and ask follow-up questions, you’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn.

4—What did your research reveal about the comfort level of introverts and extroverts when they are engaged in one-on-one conversations?

Most introverts thrive on one-on-one conversations. The more substantive the better. They can react badly when they are part of a larger group, where a few people are dominating the conversation. In that setting, they’re unlikely to be comfortable speaking.

Introverts generally don’t like speaking about themselves, so asking questions actually reduces their stress in social situations. It certainly does for me. Extroverts are much more comfortable being in the limelight, so “holding court” gives them pleasure. It can be hard for them to give it up.

5—The story you tell about communication workshop participants being challenged to reply with their least empathetic responses yielded some humorous one-liners. Why should we be striving to enhance our sense of empathy?

The shortest path to building connections with others is through empathy (defined as “putting yourself in someone else’s position and feeling what they must be feeling”). Having empathy also helps you control your own emotions, because you have a deeper understanding of the emotions of others. Finally, having empathy makes you a kinder, more compassionate person.

6—Is the path to becoming an active listener an impossible task because it requires us to stop talking, limit interrupting and pause for the other person’s reply?

Becoming an active listener is difficult, but not impossible. It starts with putting your agenda aside. It’s no longer your goal to establish that you are smarter, wittier, wealthier, or more accomplished than the other person. Your new agenda is simply to learn more about the other person by being curious and interested. The more they speak, the better your relationship with them is likely to be.

The critical first step is to change your agenda from trying to impress to learning more.

7—You are a self-proclaimed introvert who has deftly engaged audiences in hundreds of public speaking engagements. How does that work?

Introverts like me who engage in public speaking have learned to overcome our normal inclination to avoid doing so. As author Malcom Gladwell said, “Speaking is not an act of extroversion. … It’s a performance.”

Both introverts and extroverts can be good performers. There is a fundamental difference in how public speaking impacts introverts and extroverts. When I’m done with a talk, I have nothing left. I feel a need to retreat to my hotel room and be alone, which has the same effect as plugging in a smartphone that has no more power.

An extroverted speaker is likely to feel energized by the experience and ready to “paint the town red” with a group of friends to celebrate.


Dan Solin is the New York Times bestselling author of the Smartest series of investing books and The Smartest Sales Book You’ll Ever Read. Dan’s books have been enthusiastically endorsed by the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Vanguard founder John Bogle. Kiplinger’s listed The Smartest Investment Book You’ll Ever Read on its Top Ten list of the best financial books ever written.

A former securities attorney, Dan graduated from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Dan is a sales coach to advisory firms throughout the world.

He gives presentations to large groups, conducts workshops and engages in one-on-one coaching. In 2019, Forum Financial Management began a strategic relationship with Solin Consulting, Dan’s advisory coaching firm.

We help advisors establish and grow successful wealth management practices. To learn more about how we can help you amplify your life’s work, contact us at You can follow us on Twitter@theWAAlliance and on LinkedIn.

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