How to be an Effective Advocate

An advocate is someone who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, cause,
or action. There are many types of advocacy. Advocacy can be used to promote causes,
or change systems. Legal advocacy is what lawyers are paid to do and legislative advocacy
is designed to change laws. Self-advocacy, involves advocating for oneself; while individual
advocacy involves advocating for another. Effective advocacy skills will increase your chances
of getting what you want; when you want it.

Things to Remember to Do . . .

It doesn’t matter whether you are advocating for your child at school or in the community; for a new piece of legislation; or asking for money to start a new program in your town, there are things you need to remember whenever you are negotiating with others.

  • Focus on the needs of the person you are advocating for.
  • Do your research. Educate yourself on the town, school district, legislatures, etc.
  • Be prepared. Have your discussion points prepared in advance.
  • Listen. This will help you to understand other opinions.
  • Know your legal rights and what you are entitled to.
  • Always put things in writing and keep written documents of all correspondence and meetings.
  • Encourage self-advocacy.
  • Always use respectful people first language.

Tips for Good Listening

  • Stop talking. (Not as easy, as it sounds)
  • Make the speaker feel comfortable by showing an interest in what they are saying.
  • Remove distractions such as phones, music, TV, outside noises.
  • Try to understand the speaker’s feelings.
  • Be patient. Don’t interrupt.
  • Hold your temper and try not to argue or criticize.
  • Ask questions to help you understand

Effective Communication Tips

In order to get people to understand what you want it is important to be able to communicate your points in an effective way.

  • Stay focused on the issue. Don’t bring up other things that will cloud your issue.
  • Listen carefully: Truly effective communication goes both ways.
  • Try to see their point of view. It will help you to better explain yours.
  • Look for compromises. Effective communication involves finding a resolution that both sides can be happy with.
  • Take a break: Sometimes tempers get heated and it’s just too difficult to continue a discussion without it becoming an argument or a fight. It’s okay to take a break and resume discussions at another time.
  • Remember that the goal of effective communication skills should be mutual understanding and finding a solution that pleases both parties.