Last week I had to put on my advocacy hat to fight for my son. The issue was a bureaucratic process that resulted in roadblocks, prohibiting common sense from prevailing. All of which were unnecessary (at least to any non-bureaucrat).
While I was tempted to pick up the phone and yell at the person who was causing me stress, I focused on the action I needed for my son. I knew that screaming and shouting, while it may feel good in the moment, was not going to help the situation or get the results my son needed.
So instead I waited. I went for a walk, cleared my head and slept on it.
The next morning I did my best to look at the situation rationally. And with kindness.
Why kindness matters
It can be a big leap going from anger to kindness. But it is a leap that helps you go from confrontation to cooperation.
To make this leap, I gave myself permission to stew in the anger. Vent to a friend, scream, write down my frustrations. This is a key part of the process in letting off some of the steam so you can focus on the task at hand.
I knew that if I stayed in my anger, I wouldn’t be able to help my son. Why? Because no one likes being screamed at. It’s the quickest way to shut down a conversation and ensure you aren’t heard.
By focusing on kindness, I was able to think of ways to resolve the issue in a way that allowed everyone involved to get what they needed (while making some compromises).
Name the emotion
I focused my energy on writing an email that outlined my concerns. Being a writer, I divided my content up using subheads (which keeps you from rambling). These included:
- Current situations
- Next steps
As I was writing, I named the emotions I was feeling — anger, disrespect, sadness, fatigue. But I did not write the emotions. And this is the big difference. There was no ALL CAPS YELLING or disrespectful language. It allowed me to be clear on how the actions made me feel. I was also able to focus the message on my son and what he needed.
I asked for a meeting with a number of the individuals who had been involved, including the person who had caused the stress. I requested it be held the following week, to give me the weekend to calm down and gather my thoughts.
When we met, I brought my points with me, which I distributed to everyone.
And I started with kindness. Thanking everyone for taking time to talk about the issue and look for common ways forward that would support my son. I looked everyone in the eye and smiled as I said this.
I could see everyone breathe a sigh of relief.
As the conversation progressed, I made sure I used the word “we” not” “you” and kept my body language open (no arms crossed or leaning forward aggressively).
By making a conscious decision to focus on kindness, in my words and body language, I was able to find a solution that worked for everyone. Why? Because it allowed everyone’s barriers to drop so we could focus on the issue at hand.
Find your kindness
I know not every situation allows you the time to sit back, let off steam, collect your thoughts and focus on kindness. I get it. I’ve been there (many times).
But when you are in the moment and trying to have your voice heard, think about the impact you are having. If you were the other person, would you listen openly or shut down? Name the emotions versus being the emotions.
I hope this helps you find ways to advocate and have your voice heard in a way that opens up positive dialogue instead of shutting it down.
This article has also appeared as a blog post on Learn Patient Advocacy.