Advocacy is speaking up for what you want or need. It means asking for help, especially when you are not getting what you want or need. Most of us have experienced obstacles when we’re engaged in advocacy. Personality conflicts can crop up because of differences in personalities, experiences, and interests. If you recognize the different personality styles, including your own, you can develop strategies that you can use without getting angry, sidetracked, or deciding to quit.
Today’s advocacy obstacle is recognizing and strategizing “Wet Blankets.” “Wet Blankets” respond negatively to any attempt to solve a problem. They see obstacles as impassable barriers. Their negativity can become contagious because they hold on to and reflect disappointment, bitterness, and hopelessness.
When dealing with “Wet Blankets”, it is important to understand that they have a sincere belief that nothing will change or improve. Working with “Wet Blankets” requires the steadiness of an elephant – a sense of trusting yourself and remembering that the “Wet Blanket” has a belief that no one cares about them. As a result, they feel angry and defeated. If we become infected by the negativity, we may begin to experience irritation and aggression which will only make the interactions more difficult.
There are a number of steps you can take to deal with “Wet Blankets”. First of all, don’t argue with them. Listen and have patience. They sincerely believe that they are right and they don’t trust the system(s). If you make a sincere attempt to listen to their complaints, you may learn about potential problems and pitfalls. Ask questions in a manner that clarifies and demonstrates that you are sincerely trying to understand, but looking for more specific details. When you ask questions, you clarify your belief that you are dealing with problems that have solutions. Don’t interrupt, and show that you appreciate their knowledge. Reframe the problems into temporary obstacle’s that can be addressed if you work together.
“Respectfully challenging the status quo, combined with relentlessly reiterating new ideas is the hallmark of the vibrant tribe.” (Seth Godin)
Resource: Pam Wright and Pete Wright. From Emotions to Advocacy (this resource addresses school based advocacy but applies to most settings where you may need to engage in advocacy) http://www.wrightslaw.com