How can we know what’s true? This is one of the big philosophical questions of our era. Philosopher Ken Wilber states that we currently live in a postmodern era conscious of the failure of the rational insights of modernism to solve the world’s problems. As a result of this, we have come to give an emphasis on feelings and things that come ‘from the heart’ rather than those coming ‘from the head’.
Science merely gives us a method of knowing and questioning, but no final judgement on what is true, good or right. Knowledge and expertise are perpetual work in progress and unable to reassure those seeking universal truths and straightforward solutions to complex problems.
This uncertainty is not comfortable and therefore the reason that many of us are turning to irrational, yet sure-of-themselves gurus who claim to have access to the ultimate truth. With unwavering confidence they will tell you what is true and what is good. This confidence is partly the result of the Dunning-Kruger effect: people with limited knowledge or competence in a given topic overestimate their own knowledge or competence in that domain, because they don’t know what they don’t know.
If questioned, such gurus will claim that science hasn’t caught up with them yet. They might state that scientists are merely mouthpieces for establishment interests and therefore not to be trusted. Either way, their message is that they are partial to some universal truths, and that you’d better join them if you don’t want to remain ignorant and unenlightened. And when this message is repeated consistently and unrelentingly over a long period of time, people start buying into it and these gurus are building their own tribe of fanatic followers.
How can you ensure that you -an evidence-based practitioner as well as marketing savvy person- beat the gurus at their own game? To start with, you need to discover your irresistible marketing message, the line which you will be repeating to your ideal audience until they turn into ‘followers’. People are looking to turn to someone who is confident and knowledgeable about their subject matter. As an ethical professional, it is your responsibility to seek an evidence-based approach in your area of expertise and to be honest and open about both the benefits and limitations of your offer:
- Your system is not ‘bulletproof’ with ‘guaranteed results’ if your client is not encouraged to take responsibility and shown the right strategies to get results
- Be clear about the particular problem you are solving and concentrate on helping those who suffer from it, rather than claiming to solve everyone’s problems
- Explain your solution in simple layman’s terms rather than using jargon which repeals and alienates your audience
If your method is beyond rational questioning because it was conceived ‘in a dream’ or ‘through a spirit’, or when you shrug off any criticism as ‘jealously of the establishment’ then you don’t have a system to help people, but a dogma. Be honest to yourself and gracious about your system’s limitations. If you do this with confidence and openness, people will appreciate you all the more for it.