Top Ten Advocacy TipsGood habits for better results
Interactions with other people can be both positive and negative experiences, and it often depends on how the situations are approached. We’ve highlighted a number of tips that can help a large variety of typically stressful situations have better outcomes.
When a situation becomes frustrating, it can often become tempting to give in to anger, personal attacks, accusations, name calling, and rude tones of voice. As satisfying as this can be in the moment, it can often lead to more complications. After all, the voice or face you interact with belongs to another person with their own thoughts and feelings. More often than not, the person you speak to has had little to no decisions in the policies and procedures that you are frustrated with, and is just doing their job. That person will be much more inclined to help you if you treat them with respect.
Ask for alternate formats
If you understand points better when they are written for you, ask for information and correspondence in written form. Ask for large print, digital formats, or an interpreter if you need it. The process you’re trying to navigate through will be much easier for all involved if information is presented in the way you best understand.
If someone tells you something you’re not 100% clear on, ask them to explain it again. If you’ve been directed to the wrong person, ask them if they know who you should be speaking with. If you think some small fact may be related to your case, but you’re not sure, ask someone. The more questions you ask, the more information you’ll have at your disposal.
Write things down
Write down the name or employee number of every person you speak to, the time and date you spoke to them, and what you were speaking to them about. Even if this person was just directing you to someone else, make note of that. Write down the dates you mailed, faxed, or dropped off forms. This way, if you later have to argue a deadline, a processing time, or a piece of information you were given, you have a name and/or date to provide.
Know your rights
It will be much easier to get what you need if you know your rights and can state them clearly. For example, if you’re looking for a job accommodation, it will be much easier to state your case if you know about the employer’s Duty to Accommodate and what exactly undue hardship means. If you think your rights have been violated or neglected, but you aren’t sure, research and ask questions.
Back yourself up
If you have documentation to help your case, use it. Even if you aren’t sure if it’s related, it never hurts to offer any paper work you have. It is one thing to say you paid your landlord on time, after he wrongfully evicts you, but if you have a receipt or bank statement to prove it, you’ve strengthened your case much more. Look for letters and documentation from professionals when possible. Supporting letters from doctors, lawyers, councillors, social workers, and advocates add power to any claims you are making.
If your rights have been violated, provide written documentation on the right in question. It shows that you are prepared to make your case, and feel confident in your ability to do so. As well, ensure that you keep copies of applications and documents you have to submit in case the submitted copies are lost.
Prepare and practice
If you’re nervous about making a phone call or going to a meeting, prepare ahead of time. Write out what you want to say and practice it. Jot notes of important details you don’t want to forget. Have a list of questions you would like to ask, as well as any important names and dates you may need to reference. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will look.
Be clear in what you need, and stick to the facts
It can be difficult for someone to get you what you want, when you’re not clear on what that is. If you have one problem you want a person to handle, stick to discussing that one problem and the facts involved. It can be really easy to get wrapped-up in your feelings, and how the rest of your life is affected. However, doing this can make things confusing for the other people involved.
Have realistic expectations
Don’t expect that the first person you speak to on an issue will be able to fix everything right away. Chances are, you will be passed off to at least one more person, or have forms to fill out and submit, or have another department to visit. Paper work takes time to process and the people you’re working with have caseloads and meetings and appointments that aren’t related to your case. Patience is important. That being said, if you’re not getting responses within time frames you were given, don’t hesitate to check up on things to make sure everything is alright. Feel free to set deadlines for returned calls and emails; if you don’t hear from someone within a week (or a couple days, if the situation is urgent), call again.
While it may be tempting to exaggerate or lie to help your case, it usually makes things worse in the end. Lying can lead to people questioning your honesty, and even legal issues in some cases. Even simply withholding information can be costly, lengthening and complicating any processes taking place. In the end, none of it is worth it. Also, you would be surprised at the appreciation, empathy, and support available to a person who is upfront and honest.