254: Self-Advocacy w/ Dr. Matt Zakreski

Building Self-Advocacy

This week on Embracing Intensity, we share our talk with Dr. Matt Zakreski on self-advocacy skills. Self-advocacy is an important skill that can help you take charge of your own life and move toward greater freedom, fulfillment, and happiness. In this episode, we’ll explore the concept of self-advocacy and how it can help us feel more empowered in our own daily life.

The goal of self-advocacy is to actively advocate on your own behalf to get your needs met. To be a strong self-advocate, you have to have a clear understanding of your own needs. This is important because it will determine your goals and how you will achieve them. If you have a goal in mind, you need to have a plan to get there. 

The first step to positive change is to know what you are good at and what you are not good at. Explore how you can use your strengths to your advantage, and use your weaknesses as opportunities for growth. 

When you’re trying to make a change, bringing in allies is powerful because it can give you insight into the world that you don’t have. They can help you see things that you wouldn’t have thought about. Gifted and neurodivergent folks often feel like they have to go it alone in their adult life. Self advocates use their support system such as colleagues, service providers, family members, or peer support. They aren’t afraid to ask for help!

Setting the Stage!

It is very important to set the stage and prepare yourself for the conversation ahead of time so that you can be as successful as possible. The best way to do that is to set aside time to prepare and to have all of your notes and your ideas and your facts ready. This way you will be able to focus and be more effective during the conversation.

Also, consider doing it at a time and in a place where you can expect to have success. Set up a good place and time to talk about your needs, but give enough context of what you’d like to discuss so the other person doesn’t assume the worst. 

Before we start with self-advocacy, we also need to consider the person we are advocating to and understand that their strengths and challenges might not be the same as ours. We need to be specific and tangible and help them take ownership and buy into the solution. By taking on a leadership role in the conversation we can help guide its direction.

In order to give yourself the best chance possible to succeed, you have to be prepared to be flexible and let go of rigid expectations. If you are getting resistance from your boss or others, it’s a good idea to ask yourself, what do I need to do to get to the thing I want? Let them play a meaningful role in shaping what you need to do next. What new things can you try to improve the lives of people you’re working with? What employment opportunities might forward your career?

Supporting Long Term Success

It is also helpful to consider the benefits to everyone and make it a win-win. Explore how you both get the most out of the situation, help build and strengthen relationships and improve the lives of others. Getting what you want in the moment may not pay off in the long run if it means burning a bridge. Communicating clearly and assertively can help get our own needs met without compromising the needs of others.

It’s important to be specific with your plan for following up or life might get in the way. Self-Advocacy is a lifelong process of constantly setting and re-setting boundaries. This process helps you to move forward in a positive way, towards being more successful as a self-advocate.

Join us to learn more about self-advocacy with Dr. Matt!

In this episode

  • Good self-advocates get super clear on what they need.
  • Tips for playing to your strengths, using your weaknesses as opportunities for growth, and taking steps to overcome them.
  • Exploring your resources, connecting with allies, and recognizing the kind of help that’s available.
  • The importance of timing and coming prepared to set yourself up for success.
  • Setting clear goals to improve our own lives and the lives of others.
  • Developing meta-communication and self-determination skills.
  • How flexibility can help us get what we need in the long run.
  • Meeting in the middle to set up a win-win solution.
  • Getting buy-in and setting everyone up for success.
  • Communicating assertively instead of passively or aggressively.
  • The importance of specific, tangible, and direct communication.
  • Setting a clear plan to follow up for success.

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* Rough Transcript *

Ep. 254

Introduction

Aurora: Welcome everyone. I’m thrilled to have Matt Zakreski here with us to talk about self-advocacy. And if you don’t already follow Matt on social media, I think Facebook is where I mostly see you. And he’s always sharing fun, gifted memes and all sorts of other stuff, but he is a wealth of information.

So, I’m super, super glad that he took the time out to talk with us today. So welcome.

And you know, the funny thing is that I think Matt, you knew about me before I knew about you, but when I look at my search history and what brings people to my page, you’re actually among the top of my search history. So, people are actively looking for you.

Matt: That, that is awesome. that? I, oh, I love that.

Aurora: So welcome. And I’m excited to hear more about self-advocacy and then we can, so you can go ahead and share your own thoughts and then we can open for discussion.

Preparing for self-advocacy

Matt: For sure. So, when we talk about self-advocacy, right. And, you know, and I thought about putting together a PowerPoint for this, but then this actually feels much more personal, less like do this then do this, do this with that said, if you guys want me to cobble together some resources, I’m more than happy to do so.

Because one of the things, I brought this up with my wife and she’s like, well, be careful because you’re an extrovert. So, your self-advocacy is going to be very different than an introvert. Self-advocacy right. I kick open a door. I’m like, Hey, talk to me about things. And people are like, cool.

But then introverts tend not to process that way. What I would say actually is sort of a way to model this is that we start our conversations with a self-assessment right. Self-advocacy starts with self. So, what’s your personality. Where do you fall in the introvert extrovert spectrum? What are your passions and what are your needs?

So, think about those four things, right? And listen, you don’t need to tell them to me right now, but having them in mind as you create a path towards self-advocacy is going to be vital. Because the most important aspect of self-advocacy is an intentional approach to what you want to be different about your life.

Be clear with what you want

Matt: People will say to me all the time, like I want my life to be different. How do you want your life to be different? I just want it to be better. That doesn’t mean anything. I also want your life to be better. That’s not a bad goal, but the problem is it’s like if you tried to lose weight, I wanna lose weight.

How much weight do you wanna lose? I don’t know. I just wanna be thin. Then that’s not really gonna move your brain in that direction. It’s helpful to say, I would like to make more money at work. Okay. That’s a tangible thing we can work with. Right? You would like a raise. How much of a raise would you like?

I would like an extra $20,000 a year. Super. Okay. Once we know our goal, then we can craft a personalized strategy to get to that specific goal. Right? And that comes with once again, that needs assessment. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses and what are your resources? Strengths, weaknesses, resources, those three things, right?

Play to your strengths

Matt: If you’re gonna move in that direction, Playing to your strengths is the first step, right? If you have a great relationship with your boss, if you’re the sort of person who’s documented, every single thing you’ve ever done at work, that’s a strength, right? If you know the industry inside and out, that’s a strength, put those things front and center, then think about your weaknesses.

I get tongue tied when I talk to people in authority. I, I get the flop sweats. It’s like, I would like <mumbles>, right? That’s not going to be very effective. So, we rehearse that. We add resources. You talk to a coach, you do some public speaking. You talk to a therapist, you rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

If another weakness is you are terrified of confrontation, and I don’t use the word weakness as a value judgment. Right? You are not weak. If you do not like conflict, nobody likes conflict except for sociopaths. And you probably wouldn’t be here with Aurora if you were a sociopath.

So good job for you guys. Obviously, she’s nodding, right? Probably very few sociopaths. But the idea here is that weakness is – it’s just an assessment. These are the things I’m good at. These are the things I’m not so good at because you may find yourself as on your self-advocacy journey, having to do things that have traditionally been weaknesses for you.

Assess Your Weaknesses

Matt: And we can’t pretend they’re not gonna happen. Right? If you think about being in a relationship with somebody romantic, sexual, platonic, whatever, perhaps you do a great job of showing up for other people, perhaps you don’t do such a great job of inviting people to show up for you. That is in an assessment mindset, a weakness.

So, you can just sort of hope it never comes up. But as I am fond of saying, and Aurora, I know you’ve heard me say this before. Hope is not a plan, right? So, in self-advocacy if the world ends up the way you want it fabulous. You don’t have to do much, but let us not have that be our only plan.

There’s a great saying that says pray for rain, but dig a well. Self-advocacy is praying for rain and digging a well at the same time.

Think about your resources

Matt: Then once you’ve done your needs assessment, strengths, and weaknesses, then you think about the resources that you have and the resources you can bring to bear.

If you have an ally or an advocate at work, bring them in, either as a conversation before you go or even come to the meeting with you. You know, one of my clients is a university professor and they’re in the process of moving from associate assistant to associate professor. They’re moving up the ladder, they have a mentor who’s actually not even in their department.

So, if this professor from the history department is saying, Hey, you’re a great psychology professor. You need to move up the ladder. Here’s how you do that. That’s a resource to bring to bear, right? As gifted people or neuro divergent people, we tend to feel like we’ve gotta do it all ourselves.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Matt: You don’t, you can’t, so don’t try because that’s silly. Right? I just posted on my social media, that my wife, who’s a brilliant graphic designer, just made me a brand-new logo and it looks awesome. I just posted about a phenomenon called the performance cliff, and you should see the PowerPoint I made about it.

It looks like a three-year-old, drew it in an earthquake. It wasn’t pretty, my wife who’s really good at this stuff. Made it look very pretty, which means me look more professional, right? Asking for help for people who have skills you don’t have is not only fair, it’s appropriate.

Then when you’ve got your strengths, you’ve brought the right resources to bear. Then it’s about the moment. It’s about the way to craft that self-advocacy piece. Now I’m gonna be the first to tell you that self-advocacy is a lifelong process. It is not, “I stood up for myself once now everything will be fine. The end.” Right?

Set and reinforce boundaries

Matt: Think of self-advocacy like setting boundaries. I set a boundary once. That’s great. You have to reinforce the boundary, you have to reset the boundary, you have to set the boundary with different people. You’re committing to a new pattern of growth, which is hard. I mean, if it was as simple as do it once never have to do it again.

I don’t think my job would exist. So, giving yourself permission to do stuff like that for yourself, allows you to give yourself a much better chance of moving forward in a real way, towards being more successful as a self-advocate. So, let me pause there real quick, cause we’re about to get into the how to do its part, but this is the prep part.

Setting up for success

Matt: Cool. So now let’s talk about the actual advocacy part. So, in the movies, when somebody is advocating for themselves, they’re trying to get a new job or ask somebody out. They inevitably are in an elevator with that person and are thrown into a situation where they have to just say the thing, right?

Life almost never works that way. And if you feel more comfortable flying by the seat of your pants. Sure. But I’m going to argue that setting a time and a space for an advocacy is the best way to set you up for success because it gives your brain body time to prepare for it. It gives the person who will be receiving your message timed in space to prepare for it as well.

Timing is everything

Matt: If you catch your boss running out the door on a Friday and be like, “I wanna raise,” your boss, who’s probably mentally, already outta the building is like, “what? No, not right now. What?” and you’re like, “ah, my self-advocacy is bad.” Timing matters, setting matters. So, send an email, send a message.

Say, “Hey, I would like to talk to you at this time about this thing.” And if you’re advocating for yourself in relationships, which is where most self-advocacy ends up occurring, you may not wanna send your partner or partners like a zoom invite for, “excuse me on Thursday after dinner, would you please meet me in the conference room?”

Like, that’s probably not how your house works. Right. But instead you can say, Hey, there’s some stuff I’ve really wanted to talk to you about. Do you think that we could grab an hour sometime this week and your partner says, “I can’t do Wednesday, I’ve got a thing, but Thursday.”?

Okay, great. Thursday at eight o’clock. Do that then. Right. And they may want to escalate the timelines. Like, am I in trouble? Is it bad? What’s going on? It’s a thing I wanna talk to you about. And I really want to take the time to get my thoughts, correct before we have this conversation.

Develop meta-communication skills

Matt: What I just did there is what I like to call meta-communication, talking about talking. It is completely appropriate to cache the message you are giving in language that explains and contextualizes it, you know? “Yes, at Thursday eight, o’clock, I’ll be breaking up with you. Please bring a suitcase.” Like that’s not what we’re gonna do.

But the idea is like, “yeah, there are some things I really wanna talk to you about. I wanna make sure I get myself prepared for it.” You are setting the stage and reminding yourself of what you need to do. If you wanna talk to your children about how they are running in the door and they’re leaving their dirty shoes everywhere, and they’re making your house a mess and you hate it.

What we end up doing with that a lot is that there’s a moment where for some reason it gets under our skin and we shout, “y-you guys and your shoes and aah!” and then when we yell at people, they get defensive. They go, “no, I won’t do that. You’re wrong.”

And now we’re fighting. We’re not talking. So, you see the shoes, you catch your breath, you have a cup of tea after dinner, say, “Hey guys, before we have dessert, I really wanna talk to you guys about the shoes.” And then the kids are like, “but I don’t-” “Hold on. It’s really important that we talk about this.” And then we follow up on that.

The idea here is using your own scheduling to pick the spot that you feel that you either know you’re going to feel good, or you’re giving yourself the best chance to feel good. Scheduling the time for self-advocacy is enhancing your chances of success.

Come prepared

Matt: Then we get to the moment itself. If you think about self-advocacy, like a script, you are probably going to be less successful. They say, if you’re ever giving a speech, don’t print the speech out because if you print the speech out, you’re reading it word for word, you miss a word. What happens? You’re brain like crashes.

It’s like, “aah hello, friends and neighbors. Thank you for coming to the party today. I find that I, what was that word?” And then you like look up and you freeze, right? The idea is you have your points, you have the most important things you wanna say.

So, the idea there is it’s totally appropriate to bring a PowerPoint, if that’s how you roll, index cards, right?

You don’t have to go in there blind and unprepared. Like there’s this idea, right. that we should be doing that. Heck no. If it’s important to you, bring your tools and prep. Whenever I ask for anything, I have my talking points. I’ve been known to make a PowerPoint or two.

But these things really matter. If you’re asking for that, raise, talk about your career, talk about your goals, talk about the things you bring to the table. Not in a, I’m going to say these three paragraphs word for word, and then stop and stare at you like a dead fish.

Instead saying, “these are the three things I wanna talk about how much money I’ve made the company, how hard I’ve worked and where I see my career going.”

Be flexible

Matt: However, those three things come out, that’s gonna be sort of in the moment, but you’re giving yourself permission to be flexible and adaptive to the environment rather than plowing forward, like a runaway freight train, and then you do the advocacy.

And here’s the interesting thing about this. There’s nothing I can do or tell you or share with you that is gonna guarantee your self-advocacy is going to be successful. Sorry, there’s no magic bullet. There’s no magic phraseology.

If there was a word or a phrase I could give you, that would be like, here’s how you do it. Here’s how you get the things you want. I would be a very rich psychologist and now yay for me. Instead, we’re gonna focus on best practices and best preparation and give yourself the best chance to succeed possible. And then you release it into the universe.

Now, just because you can’t guarantee success doesn’t mean you have to take no for an answer. If you’re saying to your partner, I need you to treat me like a decent human being and your partner just says, nah, that doesn’t work for me. Then that is not a no that you have to accept as an answer. You can have a different conversation about what your relationship now will look like, i.e. broken.

Reflect and set goals

Matt: But if you ask, say for a promotion at work and your boss says, no, the answer is no. What you do with that information is up to you. Because what a lot of people do is, they sort of turtle. They stick their neck out and say, I wanna get raise. And then boss says, no, and they pop back into the shell. They stop the conversation.

If you get no, the next self-advocacy question is, what do I need to get to the thing I want? I want you to answer me that question. And they say, yeah, no is no is definitely an answer. And I often tell people the reverse side of self-advocacy here is that no is a complete sentence.

If someone is asking you to do something that you don’t wanna do that violates your values or sense of self, then you say no, and they’ll be well, no, no is a complete answer. Right? It’s a complete sentence and that’s okay. But if they say no, it is totally appropriate for you to ask. “What do I need to do to get to that thing, to get to the thing I want?”

I want to be district manager and I asked you for that promotion and you said, no. Okay. What do I need to do to become a district manager? And your boss might say, I don’t have those answers right now. Okay. I’d like to meet with you in a week to get those answers. The idea there is you are using your strategy of self-advocacy to set concrete goals and to follow up, to continue the self-advocacy conversation.

Follow-up

Matt: Remember, it’s not just one conversation. It is a series of conversations. So, your boss says, “fine next week, come back at this time. I’ll have three steps for you.” You come back, your boss says, “all right, I need you to do this particular training. I need you to demonstrate your ability to supervise others. And I need you to hit this sales benchmark.”

I’m clearly making this up as I go along, but the idea there is, cool now I’ve got some tangible things to do. I’m gonna set a meeting with you for three months from now to check in on, how I’m doing on those goals.

So, the idea there is that you don’t let it fade into what I like to call the magical land of later. We’ll talk about this later. We’ll do this later. Oh, I’ll handle this later. It’s never gonna happen. If you don’t set the goals. If you don’t set the meetings, if you don’t build some concrete realities around these self-advocacy conversations, they are much less likely to happen.

So, when my wife and I talk about like how we are going to change our relationship with ourselves or how we’re pandering our children, we talk about it. And then we say, let’s talk about this after this event or next week to make sure that we’re doing the things we’re talking about.

And sometimes that conversation is like, yeah, that’s going well. Right, cool. Let’s keep doing it. Sometimes it’s a whole other conversation cuz when we tried it, it blew up in our faces. That’s life, right? But the structures and strategies around these conversations are best practices and thus are going to be much more likely for you to be successful.

Preparing them for the conversation

Matt: Okay. So, I’ll pause there for a second. Any questions on what we’ve gone through so far?

Aurora: Not a question so much as an observation, but when preparing for like a future conversation, it’s also good to know how the other person- so like for me, my RSD or rejection, sensitivity is so bad that if you just tell me, I wanna have a conversation at this time, I’m gonna ruminate over what it is like until the thing happens. So, I have to have at least like a couple of words about what we’re talking about so that I know what to prepare for.

Matt: Yep, yep, yep! And that’s fine, right? The that’s you knowing yourself and thus using it to enhance these conversations, to make them more effective. I mean, I have literally no problem with that.

And actually, this is like, a lot of people in leadership, training and management, talk about stuff like this. They’ll say, don’t tell your employees, “Hey, I need to see you this afternoon,” because then our brain goes to that catastrophizing place.

It’s like, oh gosh, I’m getting fired. I should clear out my desk, you know, give it’s totally appropriate to give a few breadcrumbs, right? Like, no, no, no. We’re gonna be talking about a promotion. We’re gonna be talking about how we’re handling this issue. We’re gonna talk about the holidays.

I want to talk to you about it before we make a decision. Context is everything. Cuz in the absence of information, our brains create our own narratives and those narratives tend to be negative and catastrophic.

Consider the other person

Matt: Before I worked in my basement, thanks COVID, I would always text my wife when I left work.

Why did I do that? Because when I didn’t tell her that I was leaving work, she would be like, where is he? Where is he? Oh my God, he’s dead in a ditch. And, I’d prefer her not to think that way. But it’s a thing that her brain was doing. So, providing some extra information, allowed her to feel better.

And I wouldn’t have known to do that if she hadn’t advocated for her own needs. So, it’s a bidirectional thing by doing this, we support each other. We create a more harmonious environment.

 So, the next piece of self-advocacy is considering the person you are advocating to. Or the system, but for this case, I’m gonna focus on the person.

I worked with a client several years ago, who was very upset with her daughter for not cleaning her room. “She needs to clean her room. Her room’s a mess.”

And I’m like, “yes, that’s not great.” She’s like, “yes, her room should be clean. Her stuff should be put away. Things should be organized.” So, I let her go on for a while and I was like, okay, very good. I was like, ” alright, let me ask you this. How old is your kiddo again?”

And she’s like, “nine.” And I was like, “so your child, your nine-year-old is not capable of doing the things you want her to do, in this situation?”

Consider different perspectives & skills

Matt: And then my client said a thing that many clients or many advocates say in these moments, “but I am capable of this.” Sure. When you were nine, you had crippling O.C.D. And a very punitive parent.

So, cleaning your room was a thing you could control and must do. Right? And I was like, your kiddo has significant ADHD and is a bit more of a free spirit and it’s like, none of this is good or bad. But understanding who you’re advocating to and with is another way to enhance your chances of success. Right?

I married an introvert. So, if I ask my wife to do things that introverts have a tough time with, I am less likely to be successful there. What I can do though, is have a conversation about what the person I’m advocating with is willing and able to do so this conversation about the nine-year-old cleaning her room top to bottom turned into, “I bought you a clothes hamper.”

Can you put your clothes in the hamper? Because then what happened? The visual cue of the room didn’t look so messy. Cause all the clothes weren’t on the ground, they were in the hamper and that was a thing this kid could reasonably do. And that was a specific thing. There’s that specific goal piece again, that mom could advocate for the kid with like, “Hey, I need your dirty clothes in the hamper.”

Be specific and tangible

Matt: Not clean your room, which is this sort of abstract, nebulous idea, right? Clothes in the hamper. That’s the thing I can do. What we found is that once the kid gains some mastery of that, then the kid was receptive to another thing. Put your books back on the bookshelf. Once again, concrete, tangible thing. Parents say to me all the time, I want my kid to do chores, “they should help around the house.” right?

Sure. Yeah. Yeah. That’s great. And I was like, let me guess what you did, you arbitrarily picked a task for your child to do they have to take out the garbage? Yes. Great. Why’d you pick that one? I don’t know. It’s what I did as a kid. Sure. Have a conversation with your kiddo about what your kid is able and willing to do, because what ends up happening is whatever buy-in you can get for advocacy change, cuz advocacy’s all about making change happen, right?

We wouldn’t advocate. If there wasn’t a thing that needed to be changed, my kid needs to be in the gifted program. I wanna have more date nights, I wanna lose 10 pounds, I wanna have a promotion at work. Those are all changes. I want my kiddo to do chores. That’s adding a change to the system. But if you meet with the kiddo and say, “here are the suite of chores that are available, what are you willing to do?”

Help them to buy-in

Matt: The question isn’t I’m doing this. Yes or no, it’s what are you willing to do? It’s open-ended your kiddo says “yeah, I really don’t wanna do the garbage daddy, I think that the garbage smells terrible and I don’t like it. It’s a sensory problem for me.” Great we don’t have to do it.

What else are you willing to do? I would put the dishes away. Done, right? Because advocacy as a bidirectional thing. Increases our chances of success. When I advocate on behalf of parents with schools, I always try to research the school because I wanna know what’s possible.

If I ask a school to do something that is not possible, it’s not in their budget, it’s not in their infrastructure. Then I might as well save my breath because I need this rural school to be in downtown Minneapolis. What? That’s not realistic.

But okay, what is the closest version of that thing I need that I can work through in this system? Right? And then we’ve moved from we’re at conflict to we’re aligned, right? We always want to align as much as possible with the people we are advocating to. If it’s adversarial, then they’re more likely to shut down, get defensive.

If you can demonstrate how this benefits the entire system, your advocacy is much more likely to be successful. When we pointed out to this nine-year-old that cleaning her room would give her more time to play video games and play with her brother, she was thrilled. She had buy-in now. How exactly we convinced her of that is sort of lost to my memory at this point, but it doesn’t matter because she believed it, right?

Consider the benefits to everyone

Matt: If you, you know, you don’t ask for a promotion at work because you figure work is, want to give you more money out of the goodness of your heart. It’s like, Hey, if I get paid more money, I can do these things. And I am doing these things. I will do more of these things and everybody makes more money.

That’s good. Right? That’s the thing. It’s the ideas that I want you to think of advocacy, not like. There is a finite number of the finite slices of pie, right? There are eight slices of pie and I’m gonna get one and you’re gonna get one. And then we’re just divvy up the other six. No, no, no. It’s pie for everyone because me to further the metaphor, right?

It’s like this would enable me to bring more pie, making ingredients to the kitchen. Thus, more pie will exist and who doesn’t like pie. Who’s sitting here right now, going pie. That’s a terrible example, Dr. Matt, you know, who enjoys pie? I enjoy pie. Pie is delicious. The idea there, right, is the sort of the master level, you know, you know, hacked version of self-advocacy is moving from adversarial to alignment and.

Make it a win-win

Matt: You know, I once had a terrible boss who really worked hard to make my life not pleasant. And she was sort of holding me hostage at this job for reasons that are not worth going into now, but, and I kept using logical arguments to be, ah, but you should let me do this because of these reasons she’d be like, Nope, it wasn’t until I aligned with her.

I said, Hey, if I do this thing, here’s how it benefits both of us and protects both of us as we move forward, that she allowed me to do the things I wanted to do. It requires a little research and a little legwork on our side, but we are bright, capable humans, right. That, that are capable of getting that information.

And that would be a great segue into sort of the non-violent communication. That’s a great tool to use.

Aurora: And I can share some resources. Do you know David Rico, Matt?

Matt: Yes.

Aurora: Yeah. The author, his how to be an adult is great. He has a great chapter on assertiveness

Matt: mm-hmm

Aurora: and he talks about assertiveness versus aggressiveness and passiveness. Yeah, that’s fantastic. And then he has one in relationships as well.

Matt: I had a whole slide in my PowerPoint that I didn’t share about assertive versus aggressive, right?

Communicating Assertively

Matt: Yeah. I am. I am six foot, 200 plus pounds. I’m a big dude. And I know specifically working with kids that I have to be very careful to be assertive because it’s very easy for me to come across as aggressive, just given my size in general humanity. So, I will actually use meta communication to be like, Hey, I just wanna check in real quick.

I’m reading your body language, I’m wondering if I’m coming across as aggressive right now, I’m trying to be firm not mean. And then it gives people an opportunity to respond back to that and increase that alignment. Because if I’m working with a very sensitive client in therapy, and I’m saying like, listen, you need to do your math homework.

They’re like, you’re criticizing me. The RSD kicks in. It’s like, Hey, I appreciate that. I appreciate you giving me that. I’m gonna be more intentional with my language. However, you still need to do your math homework. So, let’s talk about a way we can get that done. Right? Advocacy becomes bidirectional and more and more successful.

If we are communicating and checking in with each other, it returns to an idea of alignment. Most advocacy, most effective advocacy. Isn’t top down. You know, you have, I want, I get most effective advocacy is, here’s what I have. Here’s what you have available. How do we meet in the middle?

Meeting in the middle

Matt: How do we get the most of what we both need out of the situation? Because then what that does is it gets you what you need and then strengthens and builds a relationship. You know, you could, you could win the battle, but end up losing the war because you’ve burned your bridges and you sunk all your resources into winning this first thing.

Playing the long game is about relationships. And that’s almost always gonna play out for you in the long run.

Aurora: Awesome. And I think you were, you know, tying back to that, like passive, aggressive, assertive piece. I think sometimes when we get frustrated, because maybe we’ve been passive for a while and then we get frustrated sometimes then when we try to be assertive, it comes off as aggressive and it might not be.

But I liked the definition of those. I think it was from David Rico that like assertiveness is approaching something so everybody’s needs are met. Aggressiveness is when you’re pushing your own needs over someone else. Like you’re trying to control the situation and passiveness, of course, is then letting other people’s needs take precedence.

So, I think that’s kind of the overall theme is like approaching it in such a way that everybody’s needs get met. So, when we’re advocating for ourselves, we also have to consider the other person’s needs.

Be direct

Matt: Completely. And actually, I like the view of passivity as, passivity is hoping that someone else understands what you’re trying to say.

Aurora: Mm-hmm

Matt: Like, gosh, sure. Would be nice if we went to go get some dinner. Are you hungry? No, I’m fine. Like, no, no you’re not, right?

So, like, you know, a great point in the chat here is that women in particular and also people of color, right. Are often seen as being more aggressive than they are because of longstanding cultural biases that we cannot unpack right now.

And to a very real extent, I don’t care what they think. Stand up for yourself and go for the things you want. If they think you’re being aggressive and you’re being assertive. Well, you know what that says more about them than it does about you. You know how you approached it, you know how you did your homework. And when you follow up and you do your debriefing on it, you’ll be able to reflect on that yourself.

Aurora: Well, thank you so much, Matt. It was great to have you!

Matt: It was awesome! So much fun. Thank you, guys, for the time and the attention and I hope it was helpful. And I will look forward to seeing you guys around the around the bend.

Aurora: Yeah, awesome. Well, thank you so much.

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