Why is self-advocacy so under used in our society? I think because it gets confused between aggressiveness and assertiveness. This confusion is just as misunderstood by the business you are dealing with (usually more so) than the individual trying to assert their rights. In the process citizens get pushed down, intimidated and managed into silence.
Not all is lost however because there is a weapon you can use and it is the absolute key to your success. That weapon is knowledge of the guidelines, goals and mission of the business or organization that you feel is treating you unfairly and denying you services, programs and respect. You will almost always find the employee who denies you and disrespect you does not represent the business or organization you are trying to access. Government and state programs have employees who are overwhelmed and burn out runs rampant. If you do not learn to advocate you will most likely be shoved to the side and forgotten. Businesses like wise expect employees to do twice the job for the money with no incentive to build the business through customer relations.
However, there are people who care and they are the business owners and the directors of federal and state programs and non-profits. The first group is invested in profits and the rest are vested in the goals through mission statements they agreed to uphold when they took their positions. The “key” to advocacy success is understanding what is important to them. For business it’s pretty easy because customer satisfaction and word of mouth marketing equals profits. You already have power here and employees who drive away customer will not last long.
Non-profits, federal and state programs are a little more difficult and intimating because you don’t have a choice weather you do business with them or not. But, it is worth the fight and you can win. First research the organization and find out exactly what they are supposed to be providing and how. If you do not have a computer to research then go to the public library. They will assist you in your research. Letter writing is always the first step to good advocacy but know not only who to send it to but include what happened, how you felt you were treated and where they had not complied with their goals, mission statement or program guidelines. Think of it as verbal litigation. Keep it factual. Emotional letters smack of victimization. Ask them to respond within a certain date. End with thanking them for their consideration and place the ball firmly in their court by stating what outcome you expect in clear and factual words otherwise it is just a complaint letter.
For federal and state funded programs that you get no or unsatisfactory responses do not hesitate to talk to your congressman and ask for their help in intervention. Above all keep your focus on the facts and avoid emotional drama at all costs. State what you want and what you know, based on the guidelines, you qualify for.