In our last installment of “Everyone is an Advocate” you met Elena and Susan who are Bad Mother Advocate: Fighting for your Family. After sharing their stories, and their belief on how everyone is an advocate, they are finally bringing you their first lesson.
Lesson One: Method trumps merit.
So what do we mean? No matter how worthy your cause is, animals, veteran suicide awareness, or military children’s healthcare if your approach is rude, disorganized, or abrasive you will get nowhere.
While this lesson is about methodology trumping merit, it’s really about harnessing the mad and speaking honey.
Let’s start this out;
Susan: I have a problem. What’s the problem? Well my son was denied healthcare and I am mad. Not just a little mad, but Hulk Smash mad. So what did I do? I called up TRICARE and screamed at the customer service person. I showed them!
So she yelled at Tricare, now what? While yelling was cathartic, Susan didn’t solve anything except becoming another screaming mom.
Let’s go back to the first lesson and say out loud: Method trumps merit.
Your method for advocacy is just as important as what you are advocating for. Susan was no closer to accomplishing her goal after yelling at the TRICARE representative and she had to call them back. (Susan: That was not a fun phone call and I felt embarrassed the entire time.)
What Susan failed to do is harness the mad and speak honey.
Often advocating requires that we maintain good relationships with people that piss us off. We have to keep in mind that we are looking for people to listen to us and to “buy in” to the premise that a change is needed.
Elena: When she started negotiating with her son’s school to improve his individual education plan, Elena let her emotions control her mouth. Instead of talking about why her son needed something different, Elena talked about what the school was NOT doing.
Elena was so frustrated she failed to consider how her son’s teachers would interpret her angry words. Elena didn’t harness the mad and speak honey and that damaged her ability to work with the school. It took months of work to recover from the setback.
Elena’s issue had merit; her son’s education; however Elena’s method was not good.
We have to learn to harness the mad. Use our anger to fuel our passion and keep us motivated. We also need to remember that no one is the villain in his or her own story. The people we speak to have their own concerns, difficulties, and challenges they are facing in their lives. If we are hostile, if we yell, if we are degrading, we close their ears and damage our cause.
On the other hand, if we speak honey, we gain cooperation and knowledge and create a perception of collaboration. Don’t confuse speaking honey with being pushed around. You can be persistent and firm while still be polite.
Speaking honey makes it harder for people to shut you down or shut you out. It makes you appear reasonable to others and gains sympathy from third parties. Think about it. When you see someone talking calmly and politely and someone else yelling, who do you think is the jerk? Who are you more willing to support?
Screaming at people doesn’t work. It’s just that simple; it does not work. So what works? For Elena and Susan, having a plan of action helped. Stay tuned for our next episode. Susan and Elena will discuss how to start forming a plan of action.