Disenthrall Yourself of Your Dogma
“The Dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise to the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and we shall save our country.”
Abraham Lincoln, Message to Congress 1862
We are held captive to our own dogma: “The only good funeral is a ‘traditional’ funeral.’” (Except, we no longer know what a traditional funeral is.) ”Healing can only occur when the body is present.” is yet another. We hold so tightly to these truths that we consider them to be self-authenticating and sustaining. If people would just accept these things as we know them they would see the error of their ways. While Our dogma may, in fact, be true and accurate it is “now inadequate to our stormy present.”
Instead, we must see our role as expanding the world view of our clients. In their world view the evidence is not self sustaining. After all: “Jim Smith’s body wasn’t present when we went to his memorial service and no one seemed to be hurt.” It is our job to understand that we must begin with their preconceptions. My friend, Paul Seyler, points out that the best way to disrupt someones preconception is to surprise them. But we make another mistake when we imagine that we know what their preconceptions are. In listening to funeral directors it seems that there is widespread belief among the profession that the public sees funerals as irrelevant, too expensive, unnecessary, etc. But, in truth, at the individual level, we don’t know that. So, preparing a defense along those lines will frequently fail.
When we encounter resistant people it is always tempting to tell ourselves stories to explain what is happening. Our failure to verify those stories is what leads us down unsuccessful paths. Second to the apologists command of his subject matter is his / her ability to listen and probe. To set the context and lead the conversation by introducing insights that his audience may not have considered. All of this while making sure that he is creating and protecting a safe environment. By listening we uncover both preconceptions and real needs.