There are times when it seems like things take forever, from planning something to securing funding, to hearing back about a job interview. The easy thing to do is sit there and wait for something to happen but I’ve learned over the years that it’s important to keep communication coming from your end in order to make sure things proceed in a timely manner. Here are some tips and tricks for being your own advocate whether it pertains to your disability or life in general:
1) Remember you’re not the only one
Because something is important to us, it’s easy to assume that our issue MUST be the most important thing on the other person’s plate. But the fact is that people like caseworkers, insurance representatives, non-profits employees, and corporate representatives have a lot on their plates. They may be servicing a lot of people. Some people are really good at keeping you in the loop with their progress, but in my experience, most are not. So remembering that you’re not the only one accomplishes 2 things: First, it gives you permission to follow-up within a reasonable time frame if you’re not being helped. Second, staying aware that you’re not the only one keeps you grounded. Sometimes it’s not all about us. This allows me to focus on the next tip…
2) Stay positive and stay thankful
Unless someone you are working with definitively wrongs you in some way, then it’s best to stay positive and grateful with whomever you’re working with. Are you more likely to help out someone who is nice to you or someone who just yelled at you? I always exude gratefulness with anyone who is working to help me in some way, especially when I am following-up on something they may have forgotten about or have been just too busy to take action on. This is especially important when the person helping you is bound by laws or restrictions that are beyond their control. Sometimes the bureaucracy is not their fault.
3) Know when to escalate
If you’re working with someone who may not seem like they can get the job done, don’t be afraid to ask for a manager or supervisor. If you start to feel like you’re getting the run-around, then by all means ask to speak to someone else or call that person directly at another time. For me this usually boils down to a gut feeling that “Hey, this person isn’t going to be able to help me…” and I move on to someone else.
4) Offer to help however you can
If paperwork needs to be filled out or something else needs to be done, then offer to help! It may get things done faster, especially if it’s something important to you and you’re willing to spend the time on it. This also creates a feeling of good faith and teamwork with whoever you’re working with.
5) Don’t give up!
If being nice doesn’t work, then by all means, you are allowed to complain! But only to the right people and only if you are completely informed about the situation. There are times when actual laws need to be followed in order to provide accommodations or services. Asking about why there’s a delay or what you can do to get things done faster is a good place to start here. If that doesn’t work, then be a pleasant pest. In other words, be polite and thankful but be FREQUENT with your inquiries about status — especially if it’s just a matter of finishing paperwork or getting an approval. Rarely have I gotten to this point myself, but one time I was leaving pleasant voicemails every day or two on someone’s phone in order to keep them moving on my issue!
Naturally, every situation calls for different tactful measures to make things stay on track. But the above tips have worked for me on several occasions. If you have your own tips, feel free to share them in the comments section!