- Meet with your client in a place where you can speak confidentially.
- Let them know that you'll be asking questions, but that they don't have to answer them - that you'll be filling out paperwork, but that it'll be kept confidential.
- Ask the person to describe the problem in his, or her own words. Ask for clarification if necessary, but stick to the verbal complaint. Listen carefully to the words that are being spoken. Our interpretation is not required. We need to be faithful to the expressed intent of our client.
Separate complaints into:
- Problems that do not include violations.
- And, problems that include violations of law and/or regulations.
(Be sure to consult the law, and/or customs relevant to your region
- Show the person the laws or regulations pertaining to his/her complaint and share how it might apply to his, or her situation.
- Teach the value of writing to become clear about complex problems by use of forms such as these: Pros & Cons.
- Stress that we ought try to resolve problems with the lowest level of authority involved, or with the other person involved directly, rather than escalating the problem with challenges to our various positions.
- Give the person time to think about his, or her situation. If s/he is not certain what s/he wants to do, suggest that s/he think about it and contact you later.
- After discussing the situation and the possible options, if the person chooses to do nothing - respect the decision and let go of the expectations.
- Otherwise, work to develop an Action Plan (Please see Problem Solving: Action Plan for an example) .
- Make a list of doable steps and make a timeline for the completion of goals.
- Role play tasks if it will help the person to prepare. Give the person suggestions as to the most effective ways of presenting his, or her complaint. Phrase all suggestions positively, i.e., "It may help to say it this way," rather than "That's a stupid way of putting it."
- Offer to show up when they're making their calls, or meeting to offer support. Ask what, if anything, s/he would like you to say.
- Prepare a sample 'call log' to help keep track of phone calls and other communications. Be sure the person documents every effort: when it was made, what was said, and any agreements that were made.
- Assist them by sending a follow-up letter, if needed, to re-state the agreements made. Use a business letter format. Email will work too, the point is to use several forms of communication to confirm, or establish what may be in doubt.
- Don't insist that the person do more than s/he is capable of doing. If he, or she is too upset or angry to act on his, or her own, begin by using recovery tools to do: Self-examination before proceeding.
(Is your advocacy based upon the person's expressed intentions, or what you think they need?)
What's Your Bottom Line?
Define the problem: Select one or two issues that you'd like to discuss to become clear about the specific problem that needs work.
Gather relevant information by doing research on the issue. Find out all you need to know to make careful decisions about what to do.
Write out the various options to solving the problem: Write each as a clear statement, and follow through with an evaluation of each option.
Evaluate the Options: Writing out the Pros and Cons of each option, and select the option you feel most comfortable with. Please see: Problem Solving Training, or The Core Teaching to problem solve emotional issues.
Develop an Action Plan: We already have a good idea of what the problem is, and what we would like to accomplish. How can we accomplish it? Write a list of actions we can take. Break each task down into manageable steps. This may include documenting your case by keeping a log, or making sure you have a backup plan (in case you need to change your strategy). For example, because I wasn't getting replies to my emails, I chose to write an epistle, or record of my letters online at: Open Letter
Document all your efforts. Record all your calls, emails, text messages, and other efforts to communicate with the date and time of call along with the purpose for doing so. Please see: Communications Log
We need to learn to deal with the people who are controlling our lives. Whether they're our parents, attorneys, bankers, politicians or agents. We need to be prepared to meet with them to be clear about our own objectives, such as the need to be safe when we're afforded new opportunities. To be able to have the time and money to plan carefully, rather than being rushed by harassment, or stressed when receiving a grant or award when homeless, or being followed from one location to another. Sometimes, people who have privileged information about us (such as members of a private club) happen to be in control of other aspects of our lives without our awareness of it. To be able to reach them with their details as they play their role in our lives is very important.
Finally, review your work: Evaluate how well you did to determine if you've accomplished what you set out to do, and what further steps you might need to take to become successful. Please see: Evaluation Form
If the first option you tried didn't work out, try another. Don't give up! Even if many attempts to reach your goal haven't worked out, keep trying! Sometimes we have to revise our plan to try other strategies. For example, I found that reporting isn't always helpful.
We're required to report crime that leads to injuries in order to garner payments for the treatments we need to recover, but the task is so dangerous that some of our local churches have chosen to provide free alternatives to State sponsored health care and supplemental food service to supplement government sponsored services that require reporting.
Black Elk's Prayer for All Life
"Hear me, four quarters of the world - a relative am I! Give me the strength to walk the soft earth, a relative to all that is! Give me the eyes to see and the strength to understand that I may be like you.
Only with your power can I face the winds. Great Spirit, Great Spirit, my Grandfather!
All over the earth the faces of living things are all alike. With tenderness have these come up out of the ground. Look upon these faces of children without number and with children in their arms, that they may face the wind and walk the good road to the day of quiet. This is my prayer; hear me now!"
Black Elk's Vision
When Black Elk was nine years old, he was suddenly taken ill and left prone and unresponsive for several days. During this time he had a great vision in which he was visited by the Thunder Beings (Wakinyan), and taken to the Grandfathers — spiritual representatives of the six sacred directions: west, east, north, south, above, and below.
Black Elk had learned many things in his vision to help heal his people. He had come from a line long of medicine men and healers in his family; his father was a medicine man as were his paternal uncles.
In his vision, Black Elk is taken to the center of the earth, and to the central mountain of the world.
As Black Elk related: "While I stood there I saw more than I can tell and understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being.
And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy."