Spanning the globe for insights into human behavior and persuasion.



Schiavo and the Pope

Was it serendipity or irony when Terri Schiavo and Pope John Paul II died within days of each other? I found it interesting that the leader of an organization which came out strongly against the Schiavo court judgments died in a similar manner. One big difference between them, other than the cause of death, is that we know the Pope died the way he wanted to die. We're not exactly certain with Schiavo.

I also found interesting how the public reacted to both events. The Catholic Church came out strongly in favor of reinserting Schiavo's feeding tube. But their position didn't change many minds. Neither did the pleadings of her parents and siblings. The stark contrast of Schiavo prior to her fall and in the 12 years hence was enough to convince people that the state she was in was no way to live.

After the Pope's death, there was a huge outpouring of sympathy from all quarters, regardless of religion, from everyone from Muslims to evangelical Christians. What caught me most off guard were the comments by some Catholic mourners interviewed by NBC on April 2, the day of the Pope's death. "Although we didn't always agree with him," some said (not verbatim), "we consider him to be a great man."

Lesson to learn here: you don't change people's minds by, excuse the pun, pontificating. Most American Catholics disagreed with their church's stance on birth control, the war in Iraq, the death penalty, etc. I would be surprised if the Catholic majority agreed with the Vatican's opposition to Terri Schiavo's court-mandated right to die. In these cases, the Pope was preaching to the choir, but the choir disagreed.

It's not just important that you speak the truth. It's equally important -- maybe more important -- how you speak truth.

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