Boy, canvassing is hard work.
Today was my first day actually standing out in the street trying to talk to strangers, and it was much different than I expected. I thought I would spend most of my time talking to interested people and convincing them to donate, but instead, the vast majority of it was spent trying to get people to stop in the first place. Since I’m the type of person to talk to some random canvasser for the hell of it, I expected a lot more people to walk up just for kicks. Turns out it doesn’t really work that way.
When you start canvassing, you turn into one of two things for most people: invisible or a leper. It’s fascinating how people will completely ignore your existence and sometimes go out of their way to avoid any possibility of interaction. It sometimes feels like you are no longer a human being trying to spread a message but a nuisance to be avoided. All this rejection makes it a fun challenge to think of interesting ways to get people to stop so you can talk to them. Even with wildly ridiculous lines such as “Take a minute for America”, “If you don’t stop, the terrorists win”, and “I’ve been waiting all day for you”, most people will shake their heads and carry on. Sometimes they’ll flash a smile as they pass by.
I kept track of how many times I’ve “approached” someone and how many times someone has stopped to talk in response. “Approached” is in quotes because I actually don’t walk up to anyone; canvassers are encouraged to stand on the sidewalk and try to get people to stop or approach them since approaching them directly can be too intimidating.
Here are the results: 293 approaches.
Guess how many people stopped?
No, seriously. Guess.
Nope. 13 people. 4.4% of the people that I called out to actually stopped to hear what I had to say. Imagine this being the case as you live out your everyday life – only 4 out of every 100 people that you try to talk to bothering to talk with you. I’m pretty sure everyone would just crawl into a hole and talk to themselves.
The most common rejections I get are the following: complete unresponsiveness/avoidance, a shake of the head, and the classic “I’m late for work/appointment”. With all this rejection, you can either become discouraged, or view the task as a fun challenge and try even harder. I’ve had both happen to me throughout the course of the day. Obviously, the latter response is much better both for my mental health and my performance, but sometimes it’s really difficult to stay cheery when all you hear is “no” over and over again.
That said, one thing that helps tremendously in keeping a positive mindset is having a partner who’s also getting rejected right there with you. The formation that we used yesterday was to have a pair facing each other with a couple yards in between. A game that’s really fun to play is to see who can come up with the most creative way to stop someone. Think of trying to use the cheesiest pick up lines in order to get someone’s attention. Sometimes we act as wingmen by pointing to the other person and saying, “Hey, that guy’s been waiting all day for you!”
If you want to get over a fear of rejection, try canvassing. It’s great rejection therapy. When rejection is the norm, it’ll stop being a big deal. The good part about all this rejection is that I’m pretty sure I’ll come out with skin thicker than an elephant’s butt. A life without fear of rejection is a life better lived.