Our doorbell rang. Again. It had been ringing a lot in the past few weeks, as the political races wound down to election day.
Here in New Hampshire, home of the first presidential primary every four years, we like to say that “politics is up close and personal.” Every serious candidate comes to our town. We get to see them in person, even shake hands and ask a question. We discuss what we think of the latest visitor with the bartender at the pub and with the woman standing ahead of us in the grocery line.
And the political canvassers are everywhere, including on our doorstep. Repeatedly. It is life during election time in New Hampshire.
As I headed toward the door, I saw the canvasser leaving. I slowed for a moment, thinking perhaps I could avoid this one. But no, he wasn’t leaving after all. He was just doing something very different than all the other canvassers. So I had to open the door and ask him why.
The canvasser wasn’t waiting right at the door. He had stepped off the front stoop and was standing about three steps down, facing me. “Hello,” I said in greeting, then, “I have to ask: Why are you standing so far away?”
He grinned. “Standing right at the door puts pressure on. I want to be close enough to show I’m friendly but far enough to show you it’s safe. When I make people comfortable, they’re more likely to open the door.”
So smart. Next time you’re putting the pressure on someone in a disagreement, trying hard to persuade them to see it your way, remember the political canvasser. Next time you’re mediating or coaching and you’re trying hard to get someone to do something (or not do something), remember the political canvasser.
Step back and leave some space for them to open the door a crack.