I, too, have been rejected.
I keep a running record of each moment of mortification ranging from middle school crushes to delivering a sweat-faced speech in front of a classroom, each flubbed word and misstep playing reruns as I stare up at my ceiling avoiding the first stranger, victim of my unsolicited intrusion.
But this reliable pain, makes fear take on physical form when faced upon a handed set of digits awaiting their typing, the debate in the best phrase to open with as the low buzzing hum picks at your ear, and finally, the sound of the stranger’s voice at the other end.
In other words, the art of phone banking.
Here’s the sitch: You, introvert turned temporary extrovert, take a lap around your bedroom before the first call. It is July 2020 and putting people over profit is your call to action. And yes, you are scared of talking but here you are, semi-expert in script reading and keeping people on the line.
- Smiling while speaking
- Speaking slowly
- Showing the specifics of each ballot initiative
- Talking to voters you do not agree with
- Withdrawing the need to feel like you have everything figured out
This is all to say when I first volunteered to phone bank for Proposition 15 (Schools and Communities First Act) and Measure QQ (Oakland Youth Vote), I stuck to the prepared speech. I made sure there was no room for error. Mortification was preventable. If I felt like I had control over the situation, I felt better. I felt prepared.
But really, I just didn’t trust myself.
I’m the type of person who likes to plan things out. I lay out my week on a planner, time block each minute I have in my day, detail a speel I’ll text someone the next morning in my notes app word-for-word, and yes, write out my phone banking script.
I’m slowly realizing though, that because of my over-reliance on this sense of “preparedness,” I don’t leave room for the actual living of life.
When I was phone banking from July through November I got responses from moms making dinner with their kids screaming in the background, retired teachers, college students, and grandmas. I also got Trump supporters and hardcore progressives; immediate hangups and 15-minute calls with people who agreed with me and people who didn’t.
What I’m saying is that my script didn’t prepare me for any of those conversations. It was organic. What I had planned didn’t work out the way I thought it would, but that was okay. That’s what made the conversation interesting and human.
So yes, I would recommend phone banking. And yes, you will get people hanging up on you or rejecting something you asked of them. You’ll have mini-instances of heartbreak and lean back in your chair asking what the point of all of this is.
And so I’ll try to give my most honest response: Talking to people and listening to them, whether that be a stranger or a friend, without curation, but with authenticity, is a way of practicing to trust yourself, something we all need to learn to do.