A common definition of advocacy is to defend or promote a cause. In describing what advocacy is, words such as supporting, recommending, representing, educating, protecting, intervening, and changing, are often used. Simply put, advocacy means taking action to do something about an issue or cause.
Advocacy also goes beyond changing or shaping government laws or policies. Seeking change, securing and promoting equality or fairness, shaping social and political outcomes, influencing political or organizational decision making, and educating the public with the purpose of bringing about change, are all actions associated with advocacy.
Key to all good advocacy is the ability to communicate your thoughts, feelings or position clearly. Good communication can be challenging for most people at any time. When you add a cancer diagnosis, communication can become even more difficult. Good communication means letting someone know clearly what you are thinking and feeling— and finding out what the other person is thinking and feeling, too, creating an open dialogue.
There are some basic skills that can help you to feel more confident and to communicate more effectively.
Be assertive. Say what you need to say in ways that make it clear to others that what you have to say is important. This doesn’t mean that you don’t take the thoughts, feelings or input of others into account, but rather, that you make sure your own thoughts, feelings and opinions are communicated and heard.
Use “I” statements. This means making statements with the word « I » in them, such as « I think » or « I feel », rather than making statements like « you should ». Using “I” statements can allow you to be assertive in your communication but can take blame or judgement out of those communications, allowing for more positive dialogue between you and those you are communicating with.
Active listening. Communication is a two-way street. Actively listening means listening to someone carefully and showing them you are listening through body language such as nodding and eye contact. When the other person is done speaking, check the message with them to make sure what you heard is the same as what they meant and give them an opportunity to clarify if needed.
Matching what you say in words with what you “say” without words. Body language is and tone are significant parts of good communication. In fact, as much as 93% of communication is nonverbal. If your facial expressions, actions, or tone send a different message from your words, people may be confused and not actually fully hear or understand what you are trying to communicate.
Express your feelings. Communicating how we feel can be one of the most challenging pieces of good communication. This means letting others know how you feel, as well as what you think. It is healthy to be aware of what you are feeling and to share those feelings with those around you. This can be a valuable tool for self advocacy and ensuring that all of your needs—physical, mental and emotional—are met.