Subtlety and Reading Between the Lines

In fundraising we spend a lot of our time interpreting signs and reading nonverbal cues. Have you ever sat with a couple of fundraisers and asked, “What did Joe Donor really mean by saying he is not able to give at a specific level.” How often have you re-written a perfect letter or solicitation plan because you wanted to strike just the right tone? Reading people’s responses and planning yours is a part of every fundraiser’s daily business. Regardless of how you use these skills it is a component of how you do your work in some manner.

Pay close attention to what people say and write. If you hear words like could or may they convey a very different message than will or would. When board members or volunteers show up to meetings (or if they fail to) can be a message in response to something you’re trying to do. Watch people’s facial expressions when you talk with them (and the expressions of others in the conversation), did they seem surprised by a comment or concerned about a new ideas?

I’ve found reading subtletyis often most important when some kind of miscommunication has happened. Many times instead of being told someone is unhappy directly you will find out through other signs, and occasionally other people.

How do you read non-verbal cues? Do you find subtly at work in your organization? What is a hidden message or clue you have been clever enough to catch?

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One Response to Subtlety and Reading Between the Lines

  1. Molly says:

    Hi – Thanks for the nice post. A friendly heads up – I think you meant to use “subtlety” rather than “subtly.” Subtly is an adverb and subtlety is a noun.

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