How to phone bank as a raging introvert

Yes, it is terrifying. Yes, it is worth it.

So you’re an introvert? So you hate talking on the phone? So you are intimidated talking to strangers?

Me too. I don’t answer my phone when it rings. If I need to find an electrician, I will immediately narrow my options to those who allow you to request a quote online. If I bought the wrong item, there is a decent chance I’ll just donate it instead of dealing with an exchange. I even spent six years in a job where talking was literally a reason to be fired. Real, human interaction? Nah. I’ll pass.

For some reason I still haven’t quite figured out, a year after leaving a job that didn’t involve speaking, I decided to take a job as a public speaker. Every day for the first two years, I woke up with gut-wrenching anxiety.

But facing that anxiety changed who I am, and it changed what I could do. Phone banking can do that too.

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How to phone bank as a raging introvert:

1) Find something you are passionate about.

There is a 0% chance I would have ever considered getting up in front of an audience and talking about myself. That public speaking job? It’s working for an organization whose mission I align with down to my core. I wasn’t doing it for me. I was doing it to make the world a better place. That notion didn’t make the anxiety, nerves and lack of confidence any better, but it did motivate me to face it day after day. When it comes to phone banking, if you are doing it just to do it, you won’t enjoy it. Don’t focus on it being you talking to a voter; focus on the person you are making calls for. What do you love about this candidate? Why do you think they are the best choice? Thinking about this may not cure the tummy ache, but it will help you pick up the phone and hit call.

2) Focus on the successes.

Most people don’t answer. Some that do won’t want to talk. Some are absolutely against your candidate but have the decency to tell you nicely. There are very few angry/aggressive strangers on the other end.

And then there’s what’s left — the small percentage of people that answer with positivity. Some are already on your side. I recently got a “(insert candidate) is my King!” reply. That’s always worth a smile. But the absolute best part is having an honest conversation with a voter who will help decide the election. When someone goes from “eh, I’m not sure” to “I’ll be checking them out as soon as we get off!” or, even better, when they sign up to volunteer right then and there. (It happens!). You end those calls with a high. It’s the memories of those that help you sign up again. Because YOU made a difference for your candidate and for the values for which you believe in. And that’s how elections are won — brick by brick. Win or lose, you fought. It doesn’t take any effort at all to focus on these highs. They will stay with you and impact you far more than any aggression.

3.) A new skill set.

Of course, there’s the obvious building of communication skills- something that is transferable to all mediums and the importance of which can never be understated. But that’s not all you’ll gain.

There is also leadership. Pre-pandemic, you might have phone banked in a field office with other staffers and volunteers. During COVID, you might be with a group of people on zoom, or you may also be by yourself in your room. All of these allow you to build leadership skills. You’ll start as the person asking all the questions (or, if you are anything like me, hoping someone else does), but, eventually, you are the one answering them. Volunteer enough, and you’ll likely be asked to host phone banks, train new volunteers, be a precinct captain, or take on another crucial role. You become a leader before you know it.

Most importantly, you gain confidence. You might very well be that person that hopes someone else asks the questions when you first start because you don’t feel up to it. You may be the person to take 5-minute breaks between each call at first to decompress and re-face the nerves. That is all completely normal.

It won’t last. You will feel yourself getting better, getting more comfortable, and having more and more fun. You’ll take these skills well beyond picking up a phone. I never used to talk to strangers. Now? I know what I have to say is valuable. I know what I have to say is important. I know how immensely gratifying it feels to persuade an undecided voter. I’m no extravert, and likely never will be, but I’ve become one of the most outgoing introverts I know. I am now that person that asks all the questions.

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Photo by Artem Maltsev on Unsplash

4) Understand the importance.

If I could go out and knock some doors (canvass), I would. Face-to-face human interaction cannot be matched. (I think we’ve all realized that in the last few months.) But, just because it is not safe to knock on stranger’s doors these days, it doesn’t mean there aren’t elections to be won.

A LOT of people want to text bank, and you can send out texts a lot faster than you can dial numbers. Usually, texts run out quicker than everyone who wants to volunteer can grab them. I get the appeal — it’s more appetizing to me too. And, for some, it may be the only option for a variety of reasons. No matter the reason, there is no shortage of people willing to text bank. There is a shortage of people phone banking. So not only is there a need, but it is generally as, and often more, effective to call rather than text.

Millennials and Gen-Xers may not use their phones as a phone (myself included), but millions of people out there still much prefer it. There is no shortage of people to call. Additionally, it allows you to have a real, human conversation. Via text, many people think they are replying to an automated system. Most don’t realize it’s a real human, and it often sells conversation potential short. On a call, those on the other side can immediately tell it is a real person, and you can have a genuine conversation that is much harder through text. Now, there is absolutely value in text banking — I’ve had some wonderful conversations, and it’s a great way to reach younger voters. And if you aren’t able to make calls, then please text bank. The point is that there are a lot of voters to call, and not enough volunteers to do it.

5) Reward yourself

Ice cream for dinner? Talk to 10 voters first.

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Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

6) Dress for success

You may have heard about this for interviews, but it works for phone banks too! Don’t wear PJs; you’ll end up wanting to lie in bed and go on Twitter. You don’t have to wear full business casual, but put on something you would leave the house in. If you would knock doors in it, it’s okay for phone banking. If you are wearing ‘leave your house’ clothes, you’ll be more likely to maintain your energy.

7) Join a zoom and be anonymous.

Even in the age of a global pandemic, you do not have to be alone. Every campaign has phone banking zooms. You can hop on a Zoom call and see the faces of everyone else fighting for what you are. You will know you are part of a fight bigger than just yourself. Plus, you can use whatever name you want, so if you are still feeling shy, change your zoom name and ask your questions in the chat. You can be part of a community, completely anonymously. Heck, use an alternate name when you call voters too. Maybe COVID has offered us a secret bonus; we can get involved and get comfortable without putting our self out there.

8) It could also change your life

I learned more about myself in a few months of volunteering than I have on many paths in my life. I’m now a few semesters into my master’s in Public Administration. I didn’t even know what that major was a few years ago — but working in non-profits and volunteering on campaigns changed where my life was headed. The final destination is still a mystery, but I am truly happy with this decision.

So go forth, and call away. You got this!

Cat lady & broccoli enthusiast

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