This article is the fifth in a series of articles covering the overall topic of advocacy. If you are like me, there was no “handbook” at my fingertips when I faced difficult situations that would erupt in the course of caring for my disabled spouse. Sharing my own research and experience, many times learned through trial and error, I hope to offer my insight on what works best so you can become an effective advocate too.
As I shared in my first article covering the basics of advocacy
, and in my second article on raising your self esteem
, you first have to believe in yourself before you can convince others to believe in you! My third article explained ways you can create your own positive changes
, which brought us to my most recent article that helped you learn how to get what you want or need
. This article will explain some ways you can target your efforts and provides examples for practice. By taking these steps and practicing them, you will learn that becoming an effective advocate for yourself and others is a very rewarding experience.
Targeting your efforts to get what you want or need.
Finding the right person to help you is a key element in getting what you want or need. You have to remember that you are a very important and valuable person, and insisting that the right person make the time to deal with you and your issues is not an unreasonable request. In fact, it is necessary!
It may take a few phone calls to find out who the best person is to talk to, but keep working the chain of command until you find the right person in charge.
Once you’ve found the right person to talk to, make sure you make an appointment to see him/her. Don’t just show up at the office unannounced. Once you’ve made your appointment, make sure to keep it. If you find you are unable to keep your appointment, make sure to call ahead to reschedule.
After you arrive to your meeting, start by asking for what you want, but remember to be brief and concise. Say what you need to say without confusing them with things they don’t need to know. Just give them the information they need. After you’ve told them what you want, tell them why you need it. Then tell them why it is in their best interest to give you what you want or need.
Here is an example:
"I have learned that many people who have taken certain medications for long periods of time need a complete battery of blood tests, particularly for monitoring their cholesterol. I would be happy to share this information with you so you can see my concern. I also know that I have many symptoms which are common to people who have certain thyroid disorders. By reviewing my records, I have found that I have not had any thyroid tests and have not had a cholesterol test in over a year. Therefore, I would like you to order a complete battery of thyroid tests for me and to check my cholesterol level. As my health care provider, I am sure you would agree that my health is your biggest concern."
The key to remember is that when you do find the right person in charge of helping your situation, you have to treat the person with the same courtesy and respect that you wish to be given in return. Assert yourself calmly, even if the other person is very negative or difficult to deal with. It is not effective to pound your fist on the desk or raise your voice in anger if the person is unable to help. Don’t lash out at the other person, the person’s character, or the organization. This kind of reaction only makes the situation worse. Keeping calm increases your effectiveness. If you have to step away for a moment to calm down, do it. Take a deep breath, and try again. It will help if you treat the other person or people courteously. There is a difference between getting out of control versus maintaining control of the situation and yourself in the process.
If the person with whom you are dealing is able to help you, be sure to thank him or her for the assistance. You can even consider sending a thank you note later. If the person is not able to help you, ask to speak to the supervisor, and keep moving up the chain until you find someone who can. If your request is reasonable and is in your best interest, you’ll eventually find someone who can help you.
In some situations, it may not be possible for you to ask for what you want "in person." Distance, lack of transportation, lack of resources, and illness or disability may make that difficult. You may have to make your request by phone, in a letter, or by email. My next article covers ways to effectively get what you want or need by phone or email, or by creating a very valuable paper trail
through the tactic of writing effective letters.