Overcoming The Yawning Gap

    “Involuntary” is an interesting word. The American Heritage® Science Dictionary1 states that “involuntary” means, “Not under conscious control. Most of the biological processes in animals that are vital to life, such as contraction of the heart, blood flow, breathing, and digestion, are involuntary and controlled by the autonomic nervous system.”

    There is one involuntary process that we all wonder about, sometimes laugh at or find embarrassing or strange. It is yawning.


    “Even thinking about yawning can cause you to do it. It’s something everybody does, including animals, and you shouldn’t try to stifle it because when you yawn, it’s because your body needs it. It’s one of the most contagious, uncontrollable actions a body does.”2

    “The most scientifically backed theory about why we yawn is brain temperature regulation. A 2014 study published in Physiology & Behavior3 looked at the yawning habits of 120 people and found that yawning occurred less during the winter. If the brain’s temperature gets too far outside of the norm, inhaling air can help cool it down.” 


    What does all this have to do with life insurance?
    Consumers have an almost involuntary ability to procrastinate when it comes to buying sufficient life insurance to protect their families. If the “deadline” for buying life insurance is just soon enough to have the policy in place before you die, it is easy to perpetually delay taking action.

    The reasons why people yawn are the same for why people procrastinate when it comes to buying life insurance.

    Tired: The consumer is a weary person, weighed down with work and family responsibilities and distracted by all the media coming through the TV, the phone and the computer. One main reason the consumers do not pick up their phone to research how to purchase life insurance may be that they are busy and tired. The consumers’ involuntary ability to procrastinate when it comes to buying life insurance is directly proportional to the lack of the energy it takes to be proactive.

    Bored: Have you ever met someone not in the life insurance industry gush all over with enthusiasm for the subject? Life insurance is a subject consumers choose to ignore rather than address. Not only is the subject boring to most people, it is also morbid and strange. The involuntary ability of the consumer to procrastinate when it comes to buying life insurance is related to the mundane and morbid (perceived) nature of the subject.

    Seeing No One Else: In the reverse of yawning, which can be stimulated by seeing someone else yawn, consumers have an involuntary ability to procrastinate when it comes to buying sufficient life insurance simply because they see no one else doing it! Who among us announces to neighbors, friends or work associates, “Hey, you know what? I just bought life insurance!”


    Preventing Inappropriate Yawning
    We all meet people for the first time and want to make a great first impression. I have on occasion found myself stifling a yawn just as others are beginning to tell me about themselves. At those moments, I have a small panic, and take deliberate steps to prevent the yawn from rising. I will take a deep breath through my nose or quickly interject a question.

    “Yawning is a good thing. It’s one way we can keep the brain awake and alert. But, there are definitely times when an unexpected yawn can be embarrassing. It gives the impression that you’re less than enthused, and that’s definitely not something you want while you’re in the middle of a deep conversation.”4

    Turns out, there are two simple techniques you can use to prevent a yawn from materializing. You can:

    • Take a sip of ice water; or,
    • Take a deep breath through your nose.



    You yawn when you’re Because
    tired your brain is slowing down, causing its temperature to drop
    bored your brain isn’t feeling stimulated and starts to slow down causing a temperature drop
    seeing someone else yawn when you’re in the same environment as them, you’re exposed to the same temperature









    Breaking the Procrastination Habit
    There are simple techniques that successful independent financial professionals use for breaking the consumers’ involuntary habit of procrastinating when it comes to purchasing sufficient amounts of life insurance. These techniques include:

    • Present the cold, hard facts. Much of the time our brains are warm and cozy simply due to ignorance of the potential dangers all around us. Consumers are unprepared for the unexpected. It is 100 percent certain they will die, but people do not know the timing of their demise. It could happen tomorrow. Prudence therefore calls for urgency.
    • Present the financial realities. People underestimate how much is sufficient. A good fact finder helps uncover the need in an objective manner. Use multiples of income recognized by carriers in their underwriting guidelines.
    • Use familiar words and clear reasoning. Do not lead with either illustrations or product descriptions. Walk the consumer through basic financial realities. Explain why Congress chose to give life insurance certain tax advantages. Inform the consumer about life insurance as a means of by-passing probate and achieving protection from creditors.
    • Dispel myths. The consumer often believes life insurance is way more expensive than it really is. It has always been, and will likely always remain, an opportunity to buy dollars with pennies. For other mythbusters, check out Who Needs Life Insurance Myths  (www.lifehappens.org/insurance-overview/life-insurance/who-needs-life-insurance-myths/) and 6 Reasons Why People Don’t Buy Life Insurance And Why They’re Wrong (www.lifehappens.org/blog/6-reasons-people-dont-buy-life-insurance-and-why-theyre-wrong/)


    A Yawning Gap
    Have you ever heard of this expression? It is “used to describe a difference or amount that is extremely large and difficult to reduce.”5 Example: there exists nowadays “a yawning gap” between rich and poor.

    ​LIMRA has repeatedly warned about America’s Yawning Life Insurance Coverage Gap: 

    • “Life Insurance ownership at its lowest level since 1960.”6
    • “There are nearly 5 million more U.S. households that have life insurance coverage, compared to 2010.”7
    • “30 percent of households remain uninsured, equal to the record low set in 2010.”8
    • “There is a $16.0 trillion coverage gap and more than 37 million American families are completely uninsured and at financial risk if their primary wage earner dies unexpectedly.”9


    We all yawn. Sometimes we laugh at it or find it embarrassing or strange. It is, at the end of the day, harmless. All of us in the life insurance industry know about the yawning life insurance coverage gap. There is nothing humorous about it. In fact,  it is downright embarrassing! When we consider the digital marketing tools available to us, the phenomenal improvements in ease of procuring life insurance policies compared to a generation ago, the fact that the premium rates are at record lows, that there exist today products of remarkable ingenuity and design and that today’s life insurance is as much about living benefits as it is about death benefits, we are completely without excuse!

    When you read about the millions of families unprepared for the unexpected, I hope you do not yawn.

    If any aspect of your business model involuntarily contributes to the status quo, it is high time to take conscious control! Consumers have an almost involuntary ability to procrastinate when it comes to buying sufficient life insurance to protect their families. All of our purposeful efforts are needed to help the consumers break the procrastination habit. Helping more people buy life insurance needs to become a contagious habit for all independent financial professionals!

    Breathe deeply through your nose, sip some cold water and take the next step to meet the desperate needs of the very real families all around you.



    1. The American Heritage® Science Dictionary, Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin
    2. https://www.healthline.com/health/why-do-we-yawn
    3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24721675
    4. https://www.livescience.com/36110-yawn-contagious.html
    5. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/yawning
    6. http://www.thinkadvisor.com/2015/09/08/limra-life-insurance-coverage-gap-substantial-and?slreturn=1513280462
    7. According to LIMRA’s 2016 Trends in Life Insurance Ownership study,
    8. http://www.limra.com/research/abstracts/pdf/2016/160928-01.aspx
    9. Ibid. http://www.limra.com/research/abstracts/pdf/2016/160928-01.aspx

    CLU, ChFC, FLMI, ia a director, vice president, team leader, speaker and mentor for Global Leadership Partners.

    For nearly four decades Murphy worked in the financial services industry, and has held positions in sales, marketing, product development, training and development, distribution, agency management, and recruiting. In his latest role he was responsible for managing National Account relationships. In this role he shared business leadership and practice management concepts with business owners, marketing organizations and independent financial professionals. He is a frequent contributor to industry trade journals and a keynote speaker at industry events.

    After 37 wonderful years in financial services, it was time for Murphy to give back, to share with others the training, development and experiences he enjoyed by God’s grace, and encourage others who are just starting out or seeking to grow.

    Global Leadership Partners identifies, equips and sends business leaders to speak at leadership seminars in partnership with organizations primarily in Eastern Europe, but eventually, around the world. The intent is to foster development of foreign leaders who will courageously stand for strong values and a high ethical standard. This work is based on the belief that the world will be a better place when filled with leaders who lead according to proven values and bedrock principles.

    Murphy is a frequent contributor to industry trade journals and is available as a keynote speaker for life insurance industry meetings and training events. He can be reached by telephone at: 312-859-3064. Email: murpd191@gmail.com. Twitter: https://twitter.com/InLifeOnPurpose.