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 “Complainers.” “Complainers” are irritating, exhausting, and hard to ignore. They view themselves as blameless, innocent, and perfect. They also have strong views about how things should be. When “Complainers” don’t get what they want, they blame it on others because it is always someone else’s fault. Most of the time, “Complainers” are angry and self-righteous (narrow-mindedly moralistic). The important thing to realize is “Complainers” really see themselves as powerless. They complain so that those “in power” will pay attention, take action, and solve their problems. People usually respond and interact with “Complainers” by ignoring and avoiding them.
When dealing with “Complainers” it is important to listen (because there is often a kernel of truth to their complaints), acknowledge that you’ve heard their complaints, sum up facts without comment or apology (although you can apologize if and when appropriate), and interrupt. When you interrupt “Complainers”, so that you can get some control and set some boundaries, interrupting should not be done in an aggression, confrontational manner, but in a firm but friendly manner.
As we end this series on advocacy, remember that you can also exhibit these traits when trying to engage in advocacy (speaking up for what you want or need). To be an effective advocate, you must control your emotions and learn to use them constructively or you will become labeled and treated as a complainer, wet blanket, conflict avoider, know-it-all expert, or pit bull bully.
“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