3 Tools to Be Your Own Best Advocate
For over twenty years as a medical malpractice defense attorney, I’ve advocated for my clients in the courtroom. I’ve used what I call the 5 Cs of an Advocate — Credibility, Connection, Compassion, Curiosity and Creativity- to persuade juries to give us wins. And I can count my courtroom losses on one hand. But my clients and I don’t win our cases because I’m an extraordinary advocate. We win because I give my clients the tools to advocate for themselves.
My clients in the courtroom were doctors, nurses, physicians’ assistants and techs. They were the ones who touched the patient, who was now suing them. It made sense that the jury wanted to hear from them and not from me. So my most important job was to turn those doctors, nurses, physicians’ assistants and techs into their own best advocates. If they could advocate for themselves well, we were far more likely to win.
If you can advocate for yourself, you will win too. So many people think advocacy is something that someone else does. The word has been associated with nonprofit work, or volunteer work. But the definition of an advocate is “one who publicly supports something”. My legal clients had to publicly support the decisions they made and the things they did in the courtroom. And now my coaching clients have to publicly support themselves in the boardroom, the bedroom, the operating room and the office. They have to advocate.
When I first meet with my coaching clients they often say they wish I could do it for them. They want me to be their advocate. But I could never do it as well as they will. I don’t have their experience, their passion, their heart, their needs. I don’t know what they know or feel what they feel. I can give them the tools, but they’re the ones who have to advocate to win.
You have to advocate to win too. No one can advocate for you as well as you can. Just like my courtroom juries want to hear from my clients, your juries want to hear from you. And you do have your juries. When you’re asking for a raise, your manager is your jury. When you’re asking for money for your idea, the investors are your jury. When you’re asking for support at home, your partner is your jury. If you want others to publicly support you, it’s time that you publicly support yourself. If you want others to advocate for you then start advocating for yourself. And when you do, you’ll find that others will follow. In fact, some of my best clients have found that when they used my tools and my training they were able to turn adversaries into advocates.
Here are three ways to start advocating for yourself.
1-Know your jury.
Your jury is anyone you want to influence or persuade. It could be one person (your daughter, when you’re advocating for her to go to bed) or many people (a group of investors when you’re advocating for more money for your product idea). The better you know your jury, the better you can advocate.
Find out as much about your jury as you can. What do they want? What do they need? How do they see the world, and how do they see you? Sometimes an advocate has to change the jury’s perspective. For example, in my trials every single member of the jury was a patient. They all saw the world, and our case, through a patient’s eyes. I represented the doctors, and in twenty years of trials I never had a single case with a doctor on the jury. No one saw the case through the doctor’s perspective. I had to change that. And I couldn’t change the jury’s perspective until I understood it.
The same is true for you. Know your jury. Ask them questions about what they see, what they hear and how they feel. Work hard to understand your jury and it will make it much easier to help them understand you and what you’re advocating to win. And remember, the most important jury is you. It’s what I call your Inner Jury. Your Inner Jury is the part of you that chooses whether to go for that raise or not, whether to ask for help or stay quiet, and whether to take a risk or stay in your comfort zone. Persuade your Inner Jury first and your Outer Jury will often follow.
2-Know your evidence.
You have your jury and you have your evidence. Evidence is anything you can use to prove yourself and your point. It can be data, statistics, pictures, videos or stories. Evidence can be graphs, tables or props. When I work with clients we collect our body of evidence, and then we play with it with a specific process I call Win/Lose/Weird. Before advocating in the courtroom I always liked to see how each piece of evidence could help me Win, could make me lose, or could make it weird. And now I help my coaching clients go through the Win/Lose/Weird process as well. This allows them to be prepared for the worst and capitalize on the best. It gives them preparation and confidence. And they win.
You can use your evidence to win as well. Take a look at everything you could use to prove whatever it is that you’re advocating to win. If you want to prove you deserve a raise, collect evidence of your contributions to the company, the salaries of your competition, and the ROI for your company in making this investment in you. Then do the Win/Lose/Weird process to be prepared for any pushback. If you want to prove you’re the best person for a job you’ve applied for, collect evidence of your experience, your transferable skills, your enthusiasm and your drive. Then do the Win/Lose/Weird process to be prepared for the scariest interview questions. Know your evidence. Prepare for it. Your evidence helps you win.
3-Build your credibility.
My keynotes and the curriculum I create for corporate/healthcare clients include my 5 Cs of an Advocate. They are Connection, Compassion, Creativity, Curiosity and Credibility. Every time I present them, someone asks which is the most important C. I answer, without hesitation, “Credibility.”
The root of the word credible is “to believe”. I couldn’t win if the jury didn’t believe me and my clients. The jury might have liked us. They could find us funny, interesting and smart. But if they didn’t believe us, none of that mattered. And credibility is the foundation of your self advocacy as well.
You need to make your jury of clients, customers, family, friends, patients and students believe as well. But first, you have to believe. You have to believe in yourself and in what you’re advocating to win. You can’t advocate until you believe. So credibility starts with your Inner Jury — believing yourself and believing in yourself. Then you can move onto your Outer Jury. Credibility is the curse to Imposter Syndrome and the secret to advocacy. And there are three prongs to credibility. The jury has to believe you — that you tell the truth and keep your promises. They have to believe in you — that you can do what you say you will do. And they have to believe that you want to help them. Once you’ve built credibility in all three ways, your win is guaranteed.
We talk about advocacy like it’s something other people do on behalf of other people. I saw it in the courtroom. Until one of my clients had to sit in the witness box, swear to tell the truth and advocate for herself to the jury in the courtroom, my clients didn’t realize they were advocates. That identity was foreign to them. But once they owned it, and once they had the tools to advocate well, they won. You could do the same. Own the fact that you’re an advocate. Publicly support yourself and your ideas, your checkbook and your dreams. Get to work. You are an advocate. Start advocating