Grow Your Portfolio the Intelligent Way

Effective Communication Is Your Responsibility

By Jim Woods
  • Effective Communication Is Your Responsibility
  • ETF Talk: Invest in Inflation with This Fund
  • Excuse Me, MacKenzie, You Forgot Something
  • The Sound of Silence

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Effective Communication Is Your Responsibility

Note: Today I am proud to present to you a guest editorial by my friend and colleague Heather Wagenhals. An expert in communications, media and public speaking, Heather’s insights into how to effectively communicate are a perfect antidote for our polarized, tribalistic times. If you want to learn how to be a more effective communicator and to effectively persuade others, this article is for you.

“To disagree, one doesn’t have to be disagreeable.”

These words were spoken by my home-state Senator and the 1964 Republican nominee for president, Barry Goldwater. Sadly, today the idea of disagreeing without being disagreeable is barely recognizable in the public square. These days, extremism is the norm. Forget about terms such as “liberal” and “conservative” or “knuckle dragger” and “snowflake.” Those terms are much too docile.

Now, you are a “masker” or an “anti-masker”, a “Karen” or a “virtue-signaling, knee-taking apologist.” Even within my own Republican party, the rhetoric has become toxic. These days you are either a conspiracy-spreading QAnon disciple, or you’re a “RINO,” or a “Republican In Name Only.”

This labeling and name-calling, including those now-infamous tweets sent from the highest political office in the country, coupled with the lack of respect for our fellow human and the vitriol cast at those who disagree have fomented a pernicious intolerance that we haven’t seen in this country in decades. All one needs to do is look at the disgraceful Capitol siege that took place on Jan. 6 to know this.

Indeed, tensions are so high that a recent request by a store clerk in Georgia asking a patron to honor a corporate policy to put on a mask was met with a deadly response.

To me, this heinous behavior demands action, because if you are like me, a liberty-loving American who wants the best for their country, it is incumbent upon you to find and create connections with those who are still reasonable in order to make our country better.

You see, in today’s soundbite-fed, personalized social-media-streaming era, we can get lost in our own custom-tailored, perfectly curated and dreadfully myopic world. By avoiding reality through avoiding other perspectives and engaging in effective dialogue with others, we are only doing ourselves a major disservice.

As my friend and editor of this publication, Jim Woods, has written, “The only solution to bad ideas is good ideas.” Well, my corollary to that is that “The only way to put good ideas out into the world is to effectively communicate those ideas, and especially to those who might initially disagree.”

Sadly, today the art of communication seems to have been lost. In a digital age of texting, email, direct messaging via social media apps and 280-character tweets, we seem to have lost our ability to create meaningful connections and to employ all our communication faculties to effectively persuade others.

Yet I believe there is still time to reach the undecided.

I am of the opinion that there are those who might ardently disagree with my views but who also are still open-minded enough to be willing to be persuaded. I know this because I have this mindset, and the chief reason why is because I don’t want to be wrong in my thinking. And if I can be persuaded by a strong and effective argument, one with facts, logic and emotional content, then so can others.

Of course, the trick becomes: how does one do this? Here again, I’ll turn to Jim’s insights, as he recently wrote, “In order to persuade others, we first must avoid putting them on the defensive with disrespect and insult. If you can do that, you’re already halfway home.”

One way to avoid putting others on the defensive is to understand what’s happening to them when you do just that. Indeed, knowledge of how we think and process information, and how our biology affects us when we greet and interact with other people, will help us succeed in effectively persuading others.

For example, if I had started this article with racial slurs and misogynistic insults and man-hating statements, you’d probably get angry with me from the outset. In fact, the minute you or someone you feel a kinship with is attacked, your survival instincts kick in and you’ll shut down the critical thinking areas of your brain and stop listening.

So, the first thing we must learn to do is avoid “pressing another’s buttons.” If you immediately start hurling labels at others such as “liberal” or “leftist” or “woke progressive,” you aren’t going to be able to unlock the key to persuasion.

Instead, why not just begin a conversation with a sincere attempt to understand why a person thinks the way they do, and what their reasons are for those thoughts? Indeed, sometimes just the simple power of asking questions can be the most effective form of communication and persuasion.

Think of it as the Socratic method, or what’s sometimes referred to as “street epistemology.” The power of asking poignant questions to others, and their own realization that they may hold views without very good reasons, can be a profound tool for initiating change. And you do so without you ever having to pass judgment.

The second thing we can do to help promote better conversations is to assume responsibility for ourselves. In this context, that means understanding that effective communication is 100% your responsibility — not to get your point across, but rather, to elicit the right result. Let me explain.

Have you ever asked anybody to, “meet me halfway” in a negotiation? If two people are involved in communication or negotiation, what do you think the percentage should be? Is it 50/50? Is it 60/40?

The answer is it’s 100% your responsibility because that’s the only person you have control over. Here, it is important to consider that the meaning of a communication is all about the response you elicit. So, if you’re not able to persuade others, it’s you who haven’t communicated effectively.

The next time you approach a discussion of any kind, instead of pushing your ideas onto others and exacting your will, try to show them a path and lead them to a better way of thinking. And instead of pushing, try persuading via sincere interest and curiosity in what they believe in.

Finally, remember that great communication and effective persuasion is not about you. It’s all about the other person. So, it’s not about how fabulous or sophisticated or smart you are, it’s about figuring out the right things to say or the right questions to ask the other person. In other words, force your interlocutor to confront and explain their beliefs. You’ll be surprised how disjointed and how unstable many deeply held beliefs really are.

Once you’ve helped another realize this, the pump is primed for a deeper conversation about what you think, and how you think your ideas can improve things for everyone.

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ETF Talk: Invest in Inflation with This Fund

The Horizon Kinetics Inflation Beneficiaries ETF (NYSEARCA:INFL) is an actively managed fund seeking long-term capital growth in inflation-adjusted terms from companies expected to benefit directly or indirectly from inflation.

INFL is Horizon Kinetics’ first ETF launch, with an exposure to global companies expected to be inflation beneficiaries (typically those that can increase revenue without a corresponding increase in expenses in an inflationary environment). Such companies may be engaged in exploration and production, mining, transportation, infrastructure and real estate (with an emphasis on “asset-light” businesses with royalty, streaming, rental, brokerage, management and leasing exposure). INFL may also have significant exposure to securities exchange companies.

The fund’s portfolio will comprise approximately 20-60 issuers of any market capitalization, and its investments will generally include common stocks, ownership units of publicly traded master limited partnerships (MLPs), including general and limited partnership interests, as well as units of royalty trusts.

INFL is non‐diversified, meaning it may concentrate its assets in fewer individual holdings than a diversified fund. Therefore, INFL is more exposed to individual stock volatility than a diversified fund.

Founded on January 11, 2021, INFL currently has amassed $596 million in assets under management with an average spread of 0.11%. Its expense ratio is 0.85%, meaning it is in the medium range of inexpensive to expensive funds to hold in relation to other ETFs, and it currently has 38 holdings.

The fund invests in foreign securities which involve greater volatility and political, economic and currency risks and differences in accounting methods. These risks are greater for investments in emerging markets. It may invest in the securities of smaller and mid‐capitalization companies, which may be more volatile than funds that invest in larger, more established companies. Since the fund is actively managed, that may be affected by the investment adviser’s security selections.

As always, I am happy to answer any of your questions about ETFs, so do not hesitate to send me an email. You just may see your question answered in a future ETF Talk.

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In case you missed it…

Excuse Me, MacKenzie, You Forgot Something

Sometimes a headline really grabs your attention. Here’s one such headline that I read yesterday that made me pause: “MacKenzie Scott gives away another $2.7 billion to charity.”

“Another $2.7 billion” is the notable verbiage here, because since July 2020, MacKenzie Scott, the woman better known as MacKenzie Bezos, ex-wife of Amazon.com (AMZN) founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, has announced she’s donated some $5.9 billion to a variety of charities, including $1.7 billion in donations to historically black colleges and universities, along with other groups, and another $4.2 billion to hundreds of organizations she and her philanthropic team want to support.

Now, think about these numbers for just a moment: $1.7 billion, then $4.2 billion, then another $2.7 billion. My simple math tells me that’s $8.6 billion in charitable contributions, an unbelievable sum that represents a stunning act of generosity and good intentions.

Yet in looking deeper into Ms. Scott’s latest charitable effort, I was dismayed to read what she wrote in a blog post about her announcement. Here’s the language that roiled my blood:

“… we are all attempting to give away a fortune that was enabled by systems in need of change.”

Let’s break that down for a moment, as there is much subtext there that requires a Deep Woods peeling of the onion skin. To understand this, we need to know that MacKenzie Scott acquired her fortune as a result of being Mrs. Jeff Bezos.

In their 2019 divorce settlement, MacKenzie became one of the world’s wealthiest women, as she was awarded a 4% stake in Amazon stock. At their current value, that makes the former Mrs. Bezos worth about $59 billion.

Now, returning to her own language, she says in her post that her fortune was “enabled by systems in need of change.”

Hmmm, what “systems” would those be? Does she mean the “systems” that brought about one of the greatest, most innovative, most efficient and most brilliant companies in human history?

Does she mean those “systems” that have created billions in shareholder value over the years? Or does she mean those “systems” that allowed America to be quarantined in our homes for nearly a year, while still being able to get the goods we needed  — goods that mostly weren’t safe to go out and get due to a once-in-a-century global viral pandemic?

Or does she mean those “systems” that enable her to live a life of luxury, and to sit back and decide who and what charities and organizations she wants to support with her spare billions?

The way I see it, those “systems” are what have profoundly changed the world to the immense benefit of us all. For that, perhaps Ms. Scott could have added a little bit more to her blog post that I think would have resonated with me, and many others I have spoken with about this, a little more positively.

How about this for a little addition to MacKenzie’s blog post: “I would like to thank the brilliance, intelligence, vision and hard work of my former husband, Jeff Bezos, for creating the company that makes my life as a philanthropist possible.”

Of course, MacKenzie Scott doesn’t need my unsolicited advice. She can do what she wants with the fortune she acquired as the result of being Mrs. Jeff Bezos. Yet don’t you think it would have been at least a bit gracious, and at least a nice gesture, to acknowledge where and how that immense wealth that she can distribute so easily was created?

I mean, MacKenzie, aren’t you forgetting something?

I think you are. And so, on behalf of your former spouse, allow this admittedly not-so-humble editor to offer his own thanks in the following fashion: “Hello Jeff Bezos, thanks for making your ex-wife’s charity possible. Thanks for creating so much wealth; thanks for changing the world profoundly with your ideas. Most of all, thanks for that next-day delivery on my chow chow’s favorite treats. The world owes you a debt of gratitude for those ‘systems’ that made it all possible.”

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The Sound of Silence

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
No one dared
Disturb the sound of silence…

–Simon & Garfunkel, “The Sound of Silence”

Given this week’s theme of effective communication, I thought an appropriate closing quote this week would come from the genius of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel in their classic “The Sound of Silence.” You see, as people everything we do involves communication. We talk without speaking, and we often hear without listening. And sometimes we are afraid to not be silent.

Yet, if you want to be a master communicator, you must accept that it’s your responsibility to speak your mind, to listen carefully and actively, and to dare to disturb the sound of silence. This is the way humans make progress. So, take responsibility for your world, and go out and save the human race.

Wisdom about money, investing and life can be found anywhere. If you have a good quote that you’d like me to share with your fellow readers, send it to me, along with any comments, questions and suggestions you have about my newsletters, seminars or anything else. Click here to ask me.

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