Monday, March 19, 2012

How to Woo Your Social Worker

My last post discussed the necessary evil that is Medi-Cal, or medicaid. Now it is time to take a giant step back from my fragile little ego and share with you some facts and helpful hints on what I like to call wooing your social worker.

Let's be real - we have a broken system, but that is no reason to blame or take it out on the people that work for said system. It's like my daddy said,
"Rachael. These people don't wake up in the mornin' and think, Gee, who am I gonna screw over today?"

He had to say that to talk me off of the proverbial ledge when I was having one of those insurance related panic attacks over something that wasn't really a big deal.

Important Aside of Importance: Now, I do hear of cases where people just like me - poor and sickly - get rejected. It is not totally unheard of that someone lets their bad day get to them and they take it out in their work. I was rejected twice before finally being accepted. Nothing had changed, really, not in the realm of my health or income. In fact, when I was finally accepted I was working and going to school. So yes, some miserable people are out there and you're just going to have to fight their bullshit.

However, the focus of this post is strictly on the social worker (which everyone on Medi-Cal is assigned) and even some helpful tips when you have to go into the Social Security office because some scary worded letter you couldn't decipher told you to.

When Going in Person
- Trickier than just a phone call because you have to be open and friendly from head to toe, so you're going to have to check your body language and disgruntled Professional Patient baggage at the door.
- Start off with a bright and bubbly "Good Morning!" (I'd say the alternate to that in "Good Afternoon!" but let's be real, do these places ever stay open beyond 12pm?)
- Offer your hand (to shake, not marry) to the person you're meeting unless it's just the behind-the-plated-window-glass person. Do not try to shove your hand up that tiny ass half-circle they've got going on. You can, however, practice your bubbly "Good Morning!" on the window person and note tone, inflection and sincerity by their reaction.
- Before you begin whatever business you're there for, take a moment to ask, "How are you?" or "How is your morning going?" This shows the social worker that you recognize they are an individual who is just doing his or her job.
- Compliment them once. Do a full scan over your social worker's desk and person and find something you can compliment them about. No need to be excessive and do it more than once, and it helps if you find something you do actually like - I usually go for a fun manicure because I appreciate a colorful set of nails.
- Be organized. If you had to bring paperwork - say, a bank statement, pay stubs and tax forms, have it all in a neat folder and ready to hand over when asked.
- Have a list of prepared questions in hand so you're not struggling to speak. When I first started playing this awful game I would sit there, confused and bogged down by my own silence, not getting the answers I needed to succeed because I was just too terrified to ask questions.
- End your visit with a smile and a sincere thanks for their assistance. Handshake optional.

You'll notice some overlap between the above and below, but there are some new tips too.

On the Phone
- Check your fear and anger. Don't jump on the phone the minute some confusing or bad news comes your way. Calm down, have a rant online or on the phone, maybe fix yourself a snack to give your brain a little happy. Watch cute animal videos on YouTube or your favorite comedian to lighten your black mood. This is vital.
- If you have a tough time explaining yourself or keeping on track, write down the issue at hand so you can look at it for reference. You don't have to be a magical wordsmith like moi, just a sentence or two and some key points.
- Have your paperwork in hand, make sure your Case # is present as well. These folk are too busy in their day to remember your name and yes, we are all just numbers living in this Brave New World.
- No matter how long you have to wait on that line and listen to whatever bullshit muzak or automated info babble, you start that conversation off with the sunniest, most cheerful, "Hello! Good Morning/Afternoon!" you can muster. It gets shit off on the right foot and lets the social worker know you're not going to scream at her/him.
- Before you begin whatever business you're calling about, take a moment to ask, "How are you?" or "How is your morning going?" This is HUGE with phone conversations. As above, this basic courtesy informs the social worker that you recognize they are a real person on the other end and not some nameless worker bee. Bonus, this small pleasantry can break down their defenses as well and it'll remind them that not everyone on the other line is a rude leech.
- Steal their thunder. A little playing dumb/self-deprecation goes a looooooooong way. Call yourself out on whatever you need help with. Something like, "I know the answer is probably staring right at me but would you please explain..." or "You know, I'm realizing now that I'm not as clever as I thought I was because I just can't seem to figure out..."
- Joke and make light of the situation. It goes hand in hand with the previous tip.
- Write shit down as your social worker is instructing you. Always keep several pens and pads of paper next to your phone and take notes. This isn't really part of the process of wooing, but in case you need someone to repeat what they just said you can let them know you're writing it down "So I don't have to call back and bother you again!"
- Reiterate what they say back to them to let them know you understood and are listening.
- Always be sure to end your conversation with, "Thanks so much for your help. You have a nice day." Or something akin to that. Thanks and Well Wishes leave people with a nice, warm and fuzzy feeling.

I have come away from so many social situations a wiser, more learned person. With each lesson my communication skills have grown stronger (well, I think so anyway).
All of the above tips may seem like basic manners 101 but we do get caught up in our drama and sometimes forget that "the enemy" is mostly never the person who is actually designated to help us.
If you need help working some wordsmith magic, please don't hesitate to contact me and let me know. I'd be happy to help.


  1. This is excellent advice! It applies to pretty much everyone, social worker or other service.

  2. Legit. I actually had that experiend not 15 minutes ago. What you are saying Is so true. Thanks!