One of the most productive and self-affirming skills to master is to know how to advocate for your children, your family and yourself. What does being an advocate mean? Speaking up. Speaking your mind and standing up for your rights, championing the rights of others, defending your ideas and yourself–all unapologetically.
Some of us consider being an effective advocate means yelling, talking ‘at’ people, making others feel some sort of guilt and being intimidating. Sure, that is an avenue to get what you want, but honestly, would you want it that way? Others may back off, begrudgingly acquiesce or communication may shut down completely. It is ultimately counterproductive, when others aren’t fully committed. They simply give in.s
As an advocate for ourselves, the aim is to be heard, respected, acknowledged and being assertive is how it’s achieved. Being assertive means that you ask for what you want while respecting the needs of others. It is being direct and boldly, yet respectfully, specific.
It takes initiative. Being assertive means that, as an example, you’re standing in line in a crowded store. Someone ignores your presence and moves into the line right in front of you. You were there first. Being assertive is when you politely tap that person on the shoulder and say,”Excuse me, I was here first. You moved in front of me.” Or. “The line begins behind me, Sir or Ma’am.”
You could also choose to say,” Yo, Bit..h, Take your a.. to the back of the line.” Or, “If you don’t take your ass to the back of the line, I’m gonna slap the sh.t out of you.” That is being
, and since we dont know the state of mind of the other person, an otherwise painless situation can become a screaming match or worse, violent.
How do you begin to effectively advocate for yourself?
Here are a few tips:
** Take a deep breath. Deep breathing allows the body to create a sense of calm, through the oxygen intake. You are better prepared to think clearly.
** Reflect on what happened. Before reacting to something someone said or did, ask yourself,”Was this intentional or accidental?” ” Is my raising my voice to this person really worth it?”
**Think about what you would want to be different. Before opening your mouth to speak, be certain about what you really want to happen. Do you want an argument? How would you want to be treated?
**Speak clearly and slowly. Start by saying,” I would like to talk to you about….” Then calmly describe the situation as seen through your eyes.
**Let the other person speak. Be a listener when the other person speaks. You must allow the other person to express themselves and respond to you. Now, if that person begins to yell, remain calm. Two aggitated people aren’t very good negotiators or listeners. If necessary, take deep breaths and engage in a conversation, not a monologue.
**Don’t expect results to be immediate. Change is not always instant, nor lasting. Sometimes it takes a few conversations with the other person before anything changes. You may have to give gentle reminders once or twice before sustainable changes occur.
**Ask someone to help. Advocating for yourself is also being unafraid to ask for help. Not every difficult situation can be resolved without someone’s help. Whether your supervisor, parent, teacher or friend. Sometimes a second set of eyes can effect change for and/or with you. One of the perks of advocating for yourself is that you don’t always have to solve problems alone. You can and should ask for help.
**Understand yourself. Know your needs based on your perspective and the way others may view you. Let them be known. Practice speaking to friends, family, and in front of a mirror. This will make it easier for you in new situations and with people who don’t really know you.
What would you do if….[How do you respond?]
- You have a coworker who has to be at work the same time as you. This person, however, has been late twice already, and this makes your job more difficult. There are tasks that need two people to complete. The third time your coworker is late, you are upset. How do you respond?
- There is a substitute worker one day, and your supervisor did not come in on this day. The sub begins to perform tasks that a usually yours instead of filling the role of the person being replaced that day. How would you respond?
No one is born knowing how to be their own advocate. It is learned, must be practiced or modeled by someone whom you identify has those skills. You know that person who seems to get respect across the board. He or she just seems to know exactly how to get what she wanted.
Never use manipulation, never make unsual demands, but always direct. Carefully observe that person. Take mental notes.
What words do they use? What’s the tone of voice? Is there eye contact? Body language?
Self-advocacy skills mean:
- Communicating your strengths, needs and wishes
- The ability to listen to others’ opinions, even if they differ from yours
- Speaking up for yourself
- Having a sense of self-respect
- Knowing your rights
- Taking responsibility for yourself
- Knowing when and where to go get help and answers to your questions
Now, begin speaking up for yourself, respectfully and directly, always participate in the process of slf-advocacy.