4 Tips for the Timid Self-advocate

  • by Veronica H.
  •   October 31, 2016

Veronica H. is a paid employee of Teva Neuroscience, Inc.

“I don’t want to bother the doctor about how I’m feeling—the office is so busy and I don’t want to seem like a pest. I guess I’ll just wait it out.”

“They signed me up to make cupcakes for the program. AGAIN. I can barely make it to my car in this heat, let alone bake. Guess I’ll tough it out and make them anyway.”

Does this sound like you? Have you shied away from expressing yourself? Does the thought of a conversation about YOUR needs leave you anxious, sweaty, and STRESSED? Check out these helpful tips designed for the shier self-advocate:

  1. You’ve got mail! Use electronic communication to your advantage. Sending your concerns electronically can feel like a buffer between yourself and the recipient. You can do this via email, patient portal, or even text. Be brief and concise: express what you want, what you need, and your desired outcome. 
  2. Ring, ring! Or beep beep….whatever your ring tone, using your phone can be an excellent communication strategy. Write down your thoughts before you dial. This helps keep the topic on task. After, date and note who you spoke with for future reference.
  3. Use the buddy system! Enlist a friend or family member as a co-advocate partner. I often use my sister when I have a difficult time asserting myself. The running joke in our family is, “she’s not bossy, she’s goal oriented!” Well, “Ms. Bossy-Pants” has supported me many a time when I’ve felt shy expressing myself. Choose someone who YOU feel comfortable with. Set limits on the support you need. “Thanks for calling the landlord about the leaky faucet, I really appreciated it. But I’m ok emailing the doctor with my concerns. Thanks for offering!”
  4. “But I’ve tried all this, now what?”  Take a BREATH. A deep one. Ready…set….here goes: sometimes you’re going to have those (gulp) awkward face-to-face conversations. Prepare beforehand by writing down concerns, wants, and desired outcomes. Make several copies—one for yourself and anyone else that will be present at the time of an appointment or meeting. Have a “practice conversation” before, either with your buddy or just yourself. I take my buddy with me for additional support. Now that you’re set, take a breath before you start talking. YES, another deep breath. Deep breathing can create a sense of calm. It creates a pause. This pause reflects to the other person how important this conversation is.

This is your journey! Expressing yourself in a way that is comfortable for YOU is a big part of self-advocacy. What fits for one person may not be a good fit for you and vice-versa.

Veronica H.

Shared Solutions® Nurse

About The Author

Veronica H., RN, MSCN is an MS-Certified Nurse working at Teva's Shared Solutions® with 6 years experience, 3 of those years dedicated solely to multiple sclerosis.

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