How Can We Start a Reluctant Conversation?
Estate planning, as well as funeral planning, is generally a hard conversation to start. People are reluctant to talk about their mortality.
There’s actually a psychological term for this reluctance: the Terror Management Theory. It’s based on the work of Dr. Ernest Becker and his 1973 Pulitzer Prize-winning work, The Denial of Death.
The Terror Management Theory posits that all human behavior is ultimately motivated by the fear of death. Death creates anxiety: it can strike at unexpected and random moments, and its nature is essentially unknowable.
This awareness of our own eventual death, called “mortality salience,” affects our decision-making in the face of this terror. Many people deal with it by deciding to avoid the topic altogether.
It takes personal value and a healthy self-esteem to even consider talking about estate and funeral planning. And it’s estimated that two-thirds of the general population has low self-esteem.
So perhaps one-third of your potential clients have the positive self-esteem to even show up at your office to plan their estates. Playing a little game can help start the reluctant conversation.
Remember the TV show, “The Newlywed Game,” which quizzed newly-married couples on how well they knew each other? The Newly-Dead Gameä– based on elements of “The Newlywed Game” — tests how well couples know their partner’s last wishes in a fun, upbeat way.
The game debuted at the 2011 Frozen Dead Guy Days festival in Nederland, Colorado, and will be returning for this year’s festival March 2-4, 2012. (See the September 19, 2011 post on Cryonics and Estate Planning.)
Couples who have played this game come away with a fresh appreciation of how much they still need to know about each other when it comes to funeral planning. The Newly-Dead Game can also help adult children obtain information about their parents’ last wishes.
For those Academy Members who would like to consider The Newly-Dead Game for client or community outreach events, contact me and I’ll send you a complimentary .PDF file of the question cards and game rules. Just as talking about sex won’t make you pregnant, talking about funerals won’t make you dead – and your clients will benefit from the conversation.
Gail Rubin is a Certified Celebrant who brings light to a dark subject and helps get funeral planning conversations started. Her award-winning book, A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die, won Best of Show in the 2011 New Mexico Book Awards. The book is available in print and e-book formats at Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, and at AGoodGoodbye.com. Contact her at 505-265-7215 or email Gail@AGoodGoodbye.com.
Academy Guest Blogger
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128