This past Saturday, I canvassed for Helen Wheatley in northwest Olympia. I visited 43 households, conversed with half a dozen voters, and left fliers at every home. It was a pleasure.
Now, to be perfectly honest, “pleasure” is NOT a word I would have paired up with “canvassing” when I first started walking neighborhoods on behalf of local candidates a couple of years ago. When I first canvassed, I was really, really intimidated (petrified, actually) by the prospect of ringing the doorbells of folks I did not know. All I could envision was Disaster:
I now know that I was suffering from Canvassing Anxiety Syndrome. Fortunately, I decided to give canvassing one try.
Miraculously, none of my doomsday scenarios materialized. I figured I had beat the odds, but I nonetheless decided to give it a second try, because I had to admit that it hadn’t been a disaster. Well, second canvass, still no catastrophe. In fact, in spite of all my expectations of epic failure, what I actually experienced was this:
First of all, I was always offered the chance to pair up with another volunteer (who invariably turned out to be a pretty nice person) to do canvassing. And between the two of us, we could manage to get across our talking points and get the data entered. And that the app didn’t blow up, no matter what we did wrong.
Secondly, I discovered that my nightmare fantasies about nobody ever coming to the door were simply unrealistic. What I learned was:
Thirdly, my fears about how folks who actually did answer the door would respond were largely unfounded:
So long story short, I keep on showing up to canvass.
Today I realize that overcoming Canvassing Anxiety has been transformative in ways I could not have imagined when I first gave it a try. Volunteering to canvass is an important practical means of supporting and getting out word about an issue or candidate. it promotes participative democracy, good citizenship, and community. At the end of the day, my most important job as a canvasser is not to convert folks whose minds are clearly firmly made up, but to respectfully exchange information with my fellow citizens. I know when I canvass I am, in my own very small way, helping nurture the change I want to see in my nation, right here at home.
Canvassing also has taught me that cultivating and sustaining a genuinely positive and respectful approach is not only useful as a practical canvassing tactic, it is empowering and pleasurable. I feel more resilient than I did two years ago and I owe some of it to canvassing.
For all these reasons, I encourage you to give canvassing a try.
- Lisa Ornstein