As a senior insurance agent, you are likely familiar with stereotypes surrounding the elderly. You may find that some are fairly accurate, which is fine, but problems arise when we assume these stereotypes are true and let them affect the way we communicate with other people. If you find yourself formulating questions and statements based on stereotypes you hold about your elderly clients, perhaps it’s time to learn more. Here you’ll find the true function of stereotypes, why they are problematic, and how you can stop making assumptions based on them.
What are Stereotypes?
Stereotypes are generalized believes and commonly held ideas about a type of person, place, or thing. They ignore individual traits and mannerisms, focusing on a larger over-simplified version of reality.
What is the Purpose of Stereotypes?
Stereotypes exist to organize information. Our brains are unable to process and retain every detail of each individual we see, so we categorize them into groups, usually based on their appearance. These thoughts are not usually malicious (And sometimes they are. Not cool, man.), but can lead to miscommunication when speaking with people you don’t know well. This is why stereotypes can lead to problems.
Why is Stereotyping Problematic?
There are a few reasons stereotypes lead to problematic communication.
- They are Ill-Conceived: We said stereotypes are meant for organization and not usually harmful in their conception, but there are those that are just plain mean. You know, the ones that insinuate people are of lesser value or less deserving of respect than others. That’s a problem right from the get-go. Even if it’s just a thought without an action, a mindset like this is not okay.
- You Base Your Communication on Stereotypes: Assumptions are your downfall here. When you dive into a conversation with assumptions about how your client acts or thinks because they are elderly, you’ve lost. You didn’t take the time to listen or understand their situation and get an idea of their true personality. This leads to assumptions about their wealth, needs, and coverage, which means you could end up writing them a policy that doesn’t quite fit.
How Do I Stop Sterotyping?
While you may not be able to completely stop a stereotype from entering your head, there are some things you can do to avoid letting stereotypes affect your communication.
- Stop: Don’t jump to conclusions about clients when you see them, their house, or their car. The best thing to do is acknowledge the stereotype before your act on it
- Think: Take a second and think to yourself:”Am I seeing this person for who they are for the stereotype I hold?” “Am I assuming something about this person based on a stereotype?”
- Ask: Make sure to use specific fact-finding questions when learning about your client’s situation. Ask them about their preferences and worries. Bring up ancillary products. They may have a need they didn’t tell you about simply because you didn’t ask! And, as always, make an effort to learn at least a little bit of personal information about them. Ask about hobbies, family, and their experiences. This way, you will conduct your appointment based on that specific person, not the generalized idea of how that person should be.
Here at Senior Marketing Specialists, we want you to succeed. Sometimes that means bringing up the hard, but important topics. We encourage you to be mindful of your thoughts and actions during every appointment. This way, you’ll have the power to open up communication and an avenue to stronger client relationships.