Overcoming Trainer FORO (The Fear of Reaching Out)

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You’ve probably heard of FOMO, “the fear of missing out,” but have you heard of FORO?

FOMO is when someone goes to an event because they’re scared they’ll miss something important or exciting.

Social change trainers fall prey to it’s not-so-distant cousin, FORO, the Fear of Reaching Out.

In this case, FORO is when you don’t invite someone to your training because you are scared of their negative response or reaction.

It usually happens to social change trainers who have tried to recruit people in the past with less than ideal results.

• You sent a text and didn’t get a reply;

• You had a great one-to-one and then you got ghosted; or

• You heard yes and then they didn’t show.

Over time a voice develops in your head that says you are doing something wrong.

The truth is there is nothing wrong with you and there is certainly nothing wrong with organizing people to make a change in their lives and community.

But it can be hard to remember that everyday.

So here’s a list of fears that I’ve heard from some social change trainers that I’ve coached.

For each, I’ve included a few reminders that you can keep in mind next time the voice of FORO rears it’s ugly head.

Fear #1 – “They didn’t respond to my training invite, so they must not be interested.”

People don’t reply for all kinds of reasons.

Maybe they just had a baby, maybe they are preoccupied with some hard issues at their organization, maybe they don’t check their phone often, or maybe their phone was lost on a backpacking trip in the Savannah.

The point is you don’t know why someone didn’t reply and you don’t actually need to know.

What you need to know is whether the person perceives your training as a meaningful solution to a challenge they face.

Some may choose to share details with you and some may vote with their feet.

Whatever the case, you don’t know that they aren’t interested unless they tell you, “I’m not interested.”

So assume they are interested until they tell you otherwise.

Take what they tell you not as a reflection of you, but as information that you can use to improve your efforts next time.

Fear #2 – “They probably think I’m bothering them.”

When you call people and invite them to your training, you are offering them something that may benefit themselves and their families.

Maybe it’s community and connection;

Maybe it’s the feeling they are making a positive impact; or

Maybe it’s a way to help others not experience the same hurt that they went through.

You aren’t bothering people by inviting them to your training, you are providing an opportunity.

If they say no, that’s ok, perhaps it’s not the right solution for them right now.

Though it might be later!

Fear #3 – “They are busy and don’t have time for our training.”

It doesn’t matter how much time you think you have, there is always more to do.

At the end of the day, how you spend your time reflects your priorities.

I’ve seen people work the night shift only to go to an organizing meeting straight after.

I’ve also seen people who say they are busy spend hours at their job scrolling through social media.

There is no “too busy” for the training. They either see it as a priority or they don’t. 

If you reach out and eventually hear no, you might need to take time to better understand their needs and use that in your invite next time.

It’s ok to hear “no”

One of the hardest things about being an organizer or trainer is hearing no over and over again to something that is truly important to you.

But what if you heard yes all the time?

That would probably mean you are only ever reaching out to the same people.

As social change trainers, our goal is not only to engage current leaders, but form new ones.

That means no might even be a sign that you are doing things right!

The Benefits of Overcoming FORO

As for the trainers who shared these fears? Well, they didn’t give in to the voice of FORO.

They stayed consistent, they kept the door open, and in the end this new group of organizers recruited 34 people to take leadership through their online training.

Most participants had never participated in an online leadership training ever before.

So, next time you are recruiting for your training or helping a decision-maker see the value of your training, don’t let fear get in the way.

Keep these reminders close and always remember to keep asking.

What about you, do you experience FORO?

What strategies do you use to overcome it?

Let us know in the comments.

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