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How To Be Your Own Advocate



Many of my clients, family and friends share with me that they are getting to an age where people they interact with assume a number of things about them. To give you an example, just last week, I was talking to a couple in their 70s who told me their own kids do not think they know what they are talking about when it comes to current issues, believe they are not assertive enough, and that they are not savvy enough to avoid being taken advantage of.


I see how this can happen. Many of my clients and the members of the groups I speak to are from a generation where the norm was to not cause any trouble. There was general concern or feelings of embarrassment when they wanted to contradict a salesman’s pitch or a doctor’s advice. They also typically don’t put themselves first, letting their needs take a back seat to the needs of their children or a boss.


Even if I am describing you, I want you to know it is time for you to take control. I tell all of my clients that it is time to be your own self advocate. Self advocacy includes knowing yourself, knowing what you want or need and obtaining the information to get it.


Unsure of where to start? Here are seven tips to improve your self advocacy skills.


1. Say no. Emphatically! You know that you don’t want to buy the magazines despite the hard sell. The guy on the phone asks for your social security number. Say no! Practice before the mirror if you have to. If you say no politely, you also may feel less guilty.


2. Trust your instincts. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it is. Realize that your instinct is based on what you know and your experience, and trust it.


3. Make your own choices. Friends, family, medical providers may want you to take a certain path you are not comfortable with, that your instinct tells you is not good for you and, most importantly, is not what you want. The only person you have to please is you!


4. Research. Knowledge is power. Today it is pretty easy to obtain information. Google can be your friend. Make sure, however, to use trusted sources. Government websites provide excellent information concerning all kinds of issues. People respect someone who has the facts.


5. Consult experts. A lawyer will help you plan your estate to meet your needs and desires. Your pharmacist can provide more detailed information about a new medication.


6. Ask questions. When you are confused about your doctor’s instructions, ask her to explain. It’s your health. Realize your doctor wants you to ask questions. If it helps you, write your questions beforehand so you will be prepared. If, when you get home, you think of more questions, call the doctor’s office.


7. Don’t sweat the small stuff but learn what’s non-negotiable to you. It helps to get what you want and not be pushed into a situation you don’t want.


You are your own best advocate. Seek help, learn to say no, know what you want, be assertive and obtain the information that will help you meet your needs. Let go of your fear to contradict an opinion when you have the information to back you up. Trust your instincts, seek expert help, and ask questions.