What Makes a Funeral Home Successful During a Pandemic?

Since 2020 began, a lot has changed (here’s a hilarious review of 2020 in case you need it). The way we communicate, connect, work, socialize, do business, eat… pretty much every aspect of our lives has changed since COVID-19 hit us like a giant curveball. 

So that means the ideas around success in the funeral profession have changed, too.

This is something we’ve been cultivating and preparing for, for years, in the funeral profession.

And now that moment has dropped, where sales tactics fall into deep wells of irrelevance. Standard marketing strategies feel useless. Advertisements you’ve ran in the past, may have gone flat line.

But there’s ONE thing that isn’t becoming simply unimportant during these unprecedented times we’re living. And that is the thing that we’re here to talk about today. 

This “thing” is what has the power to crush businesses fast, or to help them succeed in the long run. Can you guess what it is? (Try to take a guess before continuing on).

Drum roll please…

The #1 factor of your funeral home’s success, in 2020, is: emotional intelligence (also considered to be EQ). Want to raise your EQ, and also create more opportunities for your funeral business to succeed in a new era? 

Keep reading for 12 tips from emotional intelligence expert, Justin Bariso:


1. Embrace the rule of “awkward silence”

You ever been in a conversation with someone and they take an awkwardly long time to answer something you’ve asked them? Although it might have felt awkward to you at first, this delayed response allows a level of thoughtfulness, contemplation and mindfulness to take place. 

Instead of just answering questions in a knee-jerk response way, Bariso encourages you to “get your emotions under control and relieve pressure” before responding. Practice it with your co-workers, then try it with families. It will become a natural habit! And trust us, it’s worth it (it’s a secret habit of Steve Jobs and Elon Musk).



2. Use “the three-second trick.”

Rather than 3 seconds, it’s more like 3 questions you should ask yourself before you speak up in client family meetings, staff meetings, and in your personal life. Those questions are:

  • Does this need to be said?
  • Does this need to be said by me?
  • Does this need to be said by me now?

By asking yourself these 3 questions, especially if you’re feeling triggered, you could save yourself a lot of regret in the future.



3. Try to control your thoughts.

Bariso says “You may not be able to prevent a certain emotion or feeling from rushing in, but you can control your reaction to that feeling–by striving to control your thoughts”. We all know thoughts are tough ones to control, but do your best to take positives out of situations, rather than dwelling on the negative aspects.


4. Listen to feedback.

Everyone has a hard time receiving hard feedback, we’re only human, after all! And we can own that, Bariso says, by “[not] respond[ing] right away. Instead, give it some time, until you get your emotions under control. Then, ask yourself how the person’s feedback can make you better. Or how it can help you better understand others”. 


5. Make your feedback constructive.

The best way to do this is to offer a compliment sandwich, by surrounding your critical feedback with two positives or praises, and putting your feedback right in the middle. 

You could also frame your feedback with a story of your own experience with the feedback you’re giving, to not shame or make wrong the person you’re giving feedback to. Remember, too, that you’re giving this feedback to help them grow, not put them down.


6. Disagree and commit.

When it comes time to making tough decisions, it’s easy to give in or sacrifice your stance, especially when it comes to client families. But, there are times when you know you’re doing the right thing. When this is the situation, it’s important to commit to your truth, while also committing to finding a common ground. This creates trust and encourages those around you to trust their truths as well.


7. Show empathy.

Bariso best describes empathy when he says “resist the urge to judge others’ situation, and focus on their feelings”. To put yourself in a position to do this, he suggests asking yourself “”When’s the last time I felt like that? How would I want others to treat me?”.


8. Ask for help.

Asking for help is easy to say and hard to do. Especially when you’re in a service related industry and used to going above and beyond to help others. But there will always come a time where you truly need help. Bariso encourages funeral professionals to bite down on your pride, and make the big ask. 

That takes courage. And, as Bariso goes on to say, “By giving them an opportunity to help, you make them feel good. And by giving them a chance to participate, you turn them into a partner who is invested in your success”.


9. Help others.

This one probably comes naturally to you. The challenge here is to find your boundaries. Help when it truly feels like you’re serving someone else. If you’re feeling resentful, you’re not serving anyone. Try your best to serve with love, and if you can’t, take some time until you can come back to the love.


10. Apologize.

One of the most humbling yet important things you can do with your client families (and everyone really) is to apologize when you’re wrong. Apologizing could save your reputation as a funeral director, as well as your funeral home’s name. Bariso echoes these words when he says “remember also that apologizing doesn’t always mean that you’re wrong. It simply means valuing your relationship more than your ego”.


11. Forgive.

Many say Hawaiian culture is one of the most advanced cultures because of their sacred forgiveness ritual called “Ho’o’pono’pono”. This forgiveness ritual requires all parties involved in an issue to come together and say to each other “I’m sorry, please forgive me, I thank you, I love you” until the conflict has dissolved. This simple ritual was used to cure an entire ward of criminally insane patients by one therapist who never actually met the patients (click to read the story). The moral of the story: forgivenevess is power!


12. Be yourself.

Bariso says “It can be tempting to say things we believe others want to hear, even when we don’t 100 percent believe them ourselves. But taking this route erodes trust.” And he’s right! If you give up being yourself with your families, your community, your funeral home, you will make yourself untrustable. 

Society encourages us to be “nice” and “proper” but the new era we’re entering doesn’t want any of that. The new era requires your authenticity to the nth degree. 

And this goes for your funeral home’s branding, too. Think about funeralpreneurs like Caleb Wilde for example. He’s not trying to be anyone but himself. And now he has a famous blog and best selling book. Moral of the story? Be yourself! Haven’t you heard that everyone else is taken?


13. How to apply these concepts at your funeral home

If you’re wondering how to use emotional intelligence at your funeral home, the answer is that there are unlimited ways. Let emotional intelligence be at the heart of everything you do, everyone you hire, every service you produce. Let it radiate from your funeral home so your families can feel that you’re actually there for them, and not just there to sell them something. This speaks volumes about your funeral home.


Have you used the concept of emotional intelligence at your funeral home? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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