Note: This article was first written for our Kidpower staff. However, the ideas here are useful for many kinds of situations where we want people to make space in their lives for something important to their well being.
Unless there has been an upsetting event that gets people’s attention, it can often be challenging to get people to make teaching safety skills a priority. As a Workshop Coordinator, I spend all my Kidpower work days practicing Relentless Cheerful Persistence.
Our Kidpower International Founder Irene van der Zande often says, “Long ago, I stopped taking it personally that we had to reach out over and over, even after someone has expressed an interest in our services. I realized that people in charge of children are often overwhelmed and need support in making a decision even if this is something they actually want to do. I understand now that their not getting back to me or not following through does NOT mean that they don’t care, don’t like Kidpower, or are not interested. A practice of Relentless Cheerful Persistence can make a huge difference in moving things forward because we don’t want anyone’s overwhelm to stop kids and other vulnerable people from having these skills.”
Personally, I now really take the time to appreciate the level of overwhelm and chaos that many of our contacts experience on a daily basis. Anyone who is working with children, or with people of any age that have a high level of need, is likely to feel exhausted much of the time, and I try to really consider this before I launch into a phone call or an email. Kidpower is here to make people’s lives better, not more difficult, so I never want my efforts to book workshops to feel like I’m pressuring someone.
Sometimes when someone doesn’t get back to me, I still have to let go of my feelings of frustration or disappointment in the moment in order to project the warmth, caring, and enthusiasm that I truly feel about doing this work. I have discovered that, like so much of what we teach at Kidpower, focusing on the tone we use in email and phone communication with potential workshop organizers can go a long way in building collaborative partnerships with schools, agencies and private family groups.
When I make phone calls and leave voicemails, I’m careful to always have an enthusiastic, upbeat tone to my voice, and I try to keep my messages short and direct, so as to not take up too much of a busy person’s time. If I’m feeling sluggish or under-the-weather and cannot feel genuine enthusiasm, I wait until I feel more perky! Or, sometimes I have a caffeinated beverage and then make my calls. 🙂
When I email, I’m careful about my choice of words. For example, if I’ve been following up with someone for a while, I will say “Checking in about Kidpower!” in the subject line, instead of writing something like “Trying again to reach you,” which does not feel friendly or positive and might communicate frustration.
I often end up resending emails with that same subject line, so I might eventually change it to be: “RESENDING: Checking in about Kidpower!” Sometimes people really do pay more attention when I use the word “resending” in the subject line.
My own personal style is to be very heartfelt, so I like to use the word “love” quite a bit, as in, “I would LOVE to find a time to chat with you about workshop possibilities. Are there some convenient times for you to connect with me on Thursday or Friday?” Of course writing “love” in this context might not feel natural for everyone, and there are certainly times where it feels more appropriate to say I would “be thrilled” to talk to someone or “it would be wonderful to connect with you this week so I can answer any questions you may have.” I also very much enjoy the use of exclamation points!
If I am really, truly not getting a response, I will email to ask whether the person wishes for me to continue to pursue them. I might say, “I know you are VERY busy, and I certainly do not want to bother you! Would you like me to continue to email you about planning a workshop, or would you like me to stop? Or would you perhaps like me to contact you at a future date? Anything is fine with me, so feel free to let me know! Many thanks.” I think that ending a possible working relationship on a positive note is just as important as starting one on a positive note — and it may lead to the possibility of starting up again in the future.
Kidpower is so multi-faceted that it took me about a year to even be able to summarize what Kidpower IS and exactly what we do. Once I got to that point, I realized that I can tailor how I describe Kidpower depending on who I’m speaking with. So, taking time to really think about how Kidpower might benefit a program for very young children vs. a program for adults with disabilities, or a program for doctors in a medical practice, for example, can go a long way toward truly connecting with the person on the other end of the phone line.
One of my dear friends is a Principal at a public elementary school, and he is very often overworked, overtired and extremely grumpy…so sometimes I imagine that the person I am calling has a life like my friend, and that helps me tailor my language and timing when doing outreach. Some teachers are fine with speaking to me during the day. Others NEVER want to be contacted when they are teaching; so it’s good to ask about the best time to connect with someone.
I think of my work as a workshop coordinator as primarily one of relationship building; workshops that come out of these relationships are a secondary goal, because if people feel good about me as a representative of Kidpower and then they feel good about Kidpower after they have a workshop, then they want more workshops and they tell other people about Kidpower, and then Kidpower grows!
In the context of a good relationship, so many things are possible, so I focus on building a relationship of trust with all my contacts. I try to be a good listener, to ask questions about what they want and need, and to deeply understand how Kidpower might help — without any pressure to move forward with services. However, I also communicate how passionately I believe that Kidpower DOES help and WILL help the people they work with, and how committed I am to finding a way to plan the workshop in ways that are not difficult for them to undertake. I often tell people that I will “do my best to make this as easy as possible for you,” or that we “can work together to bring this workshop to your clients.”
The reward is to have people thank me because they are thrilled about our services. Sometimes they tell me that just seeing an email from me or hearing my voice on their voice mail has made them feel good.
And of course, the biggest rewards are all the kids and other vulnerable people who are safer and confident because they have these skills.
Published: April 19, 2016 | Last Updated: August 2, 2016