Why Door-to-door Listening?
Door-to-door listening can be an incredibly powerful community-building tool that enables you to meet members of your local community and better understand the issues that matter to them. The process of knocking on people’s doors and simply listening to what they have to say is both humbling and empowering, and if done with care and consideration, it can foster strong links across a local area, helping to initiate a local movement and/or help an existing one gain momentum.
What Do I Need to Consider?
Throughout the door-to-door listening process it is important to remember that you are approaching people’s homes and that people may not be able to talk or may not want to. If someone does not feel like they have time to engage with you, then listen to them and respect their wishes – their home is their private space, and they are entitled to feel safe and free from hassle.
It is also important to try to avoid making assumptions: avoid judging someone on their race, gender, religion or age, and/or what their house looks like or the area in which they live. Everyone is different, knock on someone’s door with an open mind and with a willingness to connect and learn.
With door-to-door listening it is vital not to have an agenda, do not knock on the door with content that you want to peddle through as this will prevent you from being able to actively listen. Listen, genuinely listen, and let the person whose home who have knocked on guide the interaction. Do not try to equate their experiences with yours or interrupt with questions. Questions you might have will be related to your perspective and they will work to interrupt someone’s flow or make the conversation change direction.
Step by Step Guide
- Knock on the door. Take a step back once you have knocked so that people can open the door without feeling like their space is being invaded.
- If a child answers the door, do not introduce yourself, ask to speak with an adult.
- Introduce yourself slowly and clearly, making eye contact and avoiding making fast movements. Think about your body language – having your arms by your side and visible will make people feel more relaxed than if you have your arms crossed or your hands in your pockets. The aim is to make people feel at ease.
- Explain who you are, why you are there and outline whether or not you are representing a community movement or organisation – it is important to be transparent. If you are knocking to understand issues that matter to people, on behalf of a local charity, for example, you could state “Hello, my name is _______. I am here on behalf of ________ and I am knocking on doors in to better understand the issues that matter to people and their families in the local area.”
- It is important to give people the option of whether or not to engage, so follow this short introduction with a question, such as “do you have some time to talk to me about the issues that matter to you?” If people do not want to engage, move on. This is their home and you are a visitor.
- If people want to engage with you, then actively listen to what they have to say, keeping in mind your body language throughout the process. Let them guide the interaction. Do not interrupt, argue with them or outline your opinions. If you need to take notes, then explain why you would like to and check that this is ok with those you are listening to. Ideally, however, do so after the process as this will ensure you are fully present when you are listening.
- Be engaged. You may wish to highlight that you have heard what they have said by nodding along or making small sounds of agreement.
- If someone asks you questions, engage with them, but try to ensure that you avoid stressing your opinions if it may make people feel uncomfortable about expressing theirs. If a natural point arrives at which you can ask a question, prioritise asking probing questions that seek to understand their perspective better. Do not ask prying questions about personal information – people are entitled to privacy and such questions can alienate.
- Thank the person for their time and for sharing their views and feelings.
- If you feel there has been positive engagement and a genuine connection, then before you depart you may wish to give the person more information about your organisation or any local events happening. However, if there is no right time to do so, then leave this step out.
- Arrive open and ready to actively listen.
- Speak only to adults.
- Speak slowly and clearly, maintaining eye contact.
- Be transparent: introduce yourself, who you are representing and why you are there.
- Give people the choice about whether or not to engage.
- Listen to them, avoid equating their views/experiences with yours.
- Ask probing questions, not prying questions, if an opportunity arises – do not interrupt their flow.
- Speak 80% less than you think you should.
- Ask what is worrying them and listen: a lot of people are not looking for solutions, they want you to hear them. If you can listen, people are more likely to meet with you again.
- Thank people for their time.