How to respond to criticism

By Bryce Sanders | November 26, 2012 | Last updated on September 21, 2023
3 min read

The holidays are almost here and you’ll be attending multiple parties. What happens if a guest comes over, asks what you do, and makes a snarky comment when you say, “I’m a financial advisor?”

Here’s how to respond to some common critiques.

1. I bought this product and was told I’d get a great return. I lost money.

What’s he really trying to ask? “I don’t want to be a victim. I want to earn a fair return.”

How to respond: Don’t answer right away, because you don’t have all the facts. First ask, “Why did you buy it?” followed by tactfully asking, “Did you understand how it was supposed to work, and how it could have generated that great return? Could you explain how it works to your spouse or a parent in simple terms?”

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Often people hear numbers they like and don’t listen to the qualifiers. Then say, “Investments with few moving parts are easier to understand. Bought at the right time they can generate respectable returns.”

You are introducing the concept of total return. Assuming you’ve piqued his interest, plan a quiet conversation later.

2. A guy I know lost money in the market. Now he’s suing his broker.

What’s he really trying to say? Again, he’s saying, “I don’t want to be a victim.”

How to respond: Since you don’t know the facts, don’t defend the other person. Instead, side with the victim. Say, “Did that broker take advantage of older, unsophisticated clients, get them trading on margin and stop calling when things went bad? Maybe they deserved to be sued.”

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Then, explain you do business the right way: “But if they agreed on a financial plan, established a risk tolerance, selected and monitored money managers together, and the advisor reported frequently to the client, that’s a different story.” Then say, “Which way would you prefer to be treated?” You have answered a difficult question while demonstrating professionalism.

3. An advisor? I get better financial advice from my barber.

What’s he really trying to say? “I don’t take you seriously. Give me a reason why I should.” It’s also possible he doesn’t understand that you help clients invest, not day trade.

How to respond: Take the statement seriously. Say, “Sounds like this is stockpicking advice. Is that the type of investing you want to do?”

You might also ask: “Is your barber also good at telling you when to get out?” People like to talk about their successes but not their failures, so ask, “Have all his ideas worked out well?”

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Finally, the kicker. Say, “Are lots of other people listening when you are discussing your personal financial details?” This gives you an opportunity to highlight the confidential nature of your business.

4. All Wall Street firms manipulate the market.

What’s he really trying to say? “Can individual investors still make money over time?”

How to respond: Remind him you’re an individual investor, too. Say, “You are probably talking about institutional investors. They make up the majority of trading volume. This includes mutual funds, money managers and pension funds.”

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Then, say: “Do you have money in any of these? If so, those institutions are probably investing on your behalf.” You’ve shown how you’re both on the same side.

Bryce Sanders

Bryce Sanders is President of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. in New Hope, PA. His book “Captivating the Wealthy Investor” is available on