ad·vo·cate / n 1: one that pleads the cause of another; 2: one that defends or maintains a cause or proposal --Websters Dictionary
When many people think about advocacy, they think about political action, such as the activities organized by AARP where masses gather at the State House to support legislation or bus loads descend on Washington, DC on behalf of a cause.
In this issue I want to urge you to consider how well you advocate for yourself. Advocating for oneself means speaking up about what you need in a variety of situations, such as family, doctors, and business transactions. Each of these situations has different dynamics which may require different tactics on your part. First you need to identify what you need, or want to say, and then how you want to say it. Good advocacy requires that you state your position clearly and concisely, without antagonism or blame. It is also a good idea to fully research the issue, so that you can advocate from a position of strength and knowledge.
Often we are intimidated by the power of the other person, or the force with which they express their position. For example, it is difficult to challenge a doctor if you think she knows everything about a health condition and you know nothing. However, no one knows your body like you do and perhaps your research indicates that many people with a similar condition have had a test that your doctor hasn’t done. Advocate for yourself by asking the doctor whether she/he has considered it. Or by asking for a second opinion. Go to a doctor’s appointment with a list of what you want to talk about and make sure it gets addressed.
Another example is in a business transaction. Are you able to advocate for yourself if a contractor does not show up when promised or leaves out part of a job you thought would be included? What about when you are billed incorrectly or get the wrong merchandise?
There are also times when you need to advocate for yourself with your family. Are you able to ask for the help you need or assert how you feel when your children insist you come live with them? Some of these situations can be really hard, especially when we were raised that it was impolite to challenge authority or speak up. But if you don’t do it, who will?
Last, I want to suggest that we can also play an important role in advocating for each other. A friend or family member can be a key advocate when someone goes to the doctor or hospital, when anxiety and anesthesia make advocacy challenging. Be the one to ensure that proper care is given and take notes when the doctors give their rapid explanations. Sometimes it may be necessary to alert family members to an area of concern, particularly if they don’t visit often to see for themselves, or to advocate directly with the friend to come in for help.
So, in this holiday season, give the gift of caring through advocacy, to yourself or someone you care about.
Susan W. Hoskins LCSW
GrandPals Celebrate 20 Years!
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Wei Ji: Crisis, Danger and Opportunity
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Hope and Vision in Challenging Times
Medicare Changes 2008: Take A Look!
Scams, Frauds and Rip-offs November 2008
Engaged Retirement: Beyond Financial Planning
Finding Rhythm and Purpose
Spring Cleaning II June 2008
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Have You Had the Talk Yet?
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