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CHRISISM #62 - Terminology Time Again - "Disability"

20 March 2018

Terminology Time Again -


When engaging with a client in the risk advice space, how often do you think you use terminology that creates a negative perception? I'll wager it's more often than you think.


As an industry, it never ceases to amaze me how often the world of financial services shoots itself in the foot with the terminology it has adopted over the years. In Chrisism#8 I pointed out some words and phrases that are commonly used by most advisers which are doing untold damage and often early in the piece simply because they are creating a negative perception on the part of the client, and this in turn gives them the opportunity to put up the shutters and switch off.

Before dealing with this dreadful word "disability", let's take a look at some examples of industry jargon that really make no sense at all. Firstly, two examples of supposed 'coupling' that don't go together at all:-

 • Needs/Objectives - these two things are poles apart and definitely shouldn't be coupled together. Those of you who are familiar with my belief in a wants analysis rather than a needs analysis will know what I mean.

 • Term/TPD Cover - these two types of cover are for totally different "what if" scenarios, namely illness or accident and death. Therefore, the more appropriate coupling should be "Trauma/TPD Cover".

 • Also, what the hell does Term Cover mean?! That's even worse than "Life Insurance", which doesn't insure your life but covers you against death - and therefore it should be called "Death Cover"!

Anyway, having got those off my chest, what about the term "disability"? If you use this word, especially with a younger client, then what pictures are immediately conjured up in that person's head? I would suggest the pictures are all of some kind of physical or mental impairment, and that is why you lose that client on the spot, because they quite reasonably think to themselves "Well, this isn't relevant for me because I'm normal". Are they right or are they wrong? It doesn't matter because perception is reality in the mind of the person doing the perceiving.

So what is it we actually mean when we use the term disability? Correct me if I'm wrong, but what we are talking about in layman's terms is simply illness or accident, isn't it? So let's use illness or accident, thereby keeping it relevant for everyone - indeed even more so for younger clients when it comes to accidents!

I encourage you all to become more aware of the language you are using with your clients and to steer clear of any industry terminology that invariably creates a negative perception on their part. 

The Risk Workshop by Chris Unwin

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