Self-advocacy isn’t easy. Whether we’re making a recommendation to colleagues or working on a team project, it can feel uncomfortable — or even daunting — to speak up. According to an Indeed survey, nearly three-fourths of women fear how they may be perceived when self-advocating.
But there’s no need for apprehension. During my nearly 25 years of representing clients at the State Capitol, I've learned that we can be better champions for ourselves and our causes. It simply takes a few commonsense steps and a willingness to put in the time and effort.
1. Set clear goals. Before you begin any conversation, consider what you want to achieve. This vision will motivate you to get started and stay focused on the tasks at hand. You will also have a yardstick to measure progress and evaluate long-term success.
2. Do your research. An informed advocate is the best advocate. Now that you have goals in mind, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and do the hard work. Compile facts, figures and materials to make and sell your case. At the same time, delve deeper into your target audience so you can fully understand their perspective.
3. Be a clear communicator. The better the communication, the better the results. With research in hand, you now have the information and the confidence you need to deliver a concise and compelling message. But remember, communication is a two-way street. Listen, and be open to feedback.
4. Seek relationships, not transactions. Strong relationships breed success. Instead of viewing negotiations as one-time exchanges, focus on fostering trust. Learn about your audience’s wants, needs and interests. There may be areas of overlap or partnership opportunities to consider.
Leading a capital campaign or advancing legislation may not be on your to-do list anytime soon. But with these tips as your guide, you’re prepared to be a strong and successful self-advocate, no matter the challenge you face.
Julie Mullenix is a lobbyist and legal counsel for Mullenix & Associates, one of Arkansas’ most effective government relations and consulting firms. Learn more at lobbyarkansas.com.