Today’s message is about strategy.
It may well be you’re facing some issues in practice. I’ve talked about scarcity, exhaustion and hierarchy, all things that can hothouse poor behaviour and bullying.
It’s your responsibility to bring the best energy you can into the room as a student or midwife.
But this is hard to do when we have someone who is being aggressive, mean, unduly critical or who is just very, very different to you in their approach.
If someone says something like...
- Did you not want to train as a nurse before being a midwife, it makes for a better clinician?
- You’re just not understanding this, are you?
- You need guts to be a midwife. You’re too ‘nicey nice’
- That’s a basic skill to get wrong, isn’t it?
...we can fall through the panic trapdoor and have a reaction that makes it hard to think.
In these moments, our breathing and heart rate speed up, time slows down, we get hot, and our pupils dilate as we prepare to flee or fight.
We know we need to do something. But what should we do or say?
Plot twist: In these kinds of situations, many of us not only feel scared of what’s going on and unsure what to do, but we also feel concern for whoever’s talking to us that way.
We know we’d never say anything so unkind and so we think this person must have gone through trauma to become like that.
If this is you, it's absolutely brilliant that you want to see things from the other person’s point of view. But it’s not your responsibility to think about their wellbeing.
Your responsibility is to yourself and your workplace. You need to address the behaviour.
It’s a great idea to have a few responses planned that are professional, clear and help promote kindness because you don’t tolerate anything else.
The following is a quote from chartered psychologist Aryanne Oade who describes what to do in such situations:
‘Freezing is about fear. You freeze because you are afraid of the consequences of saying something back. In other words, you are afraid that the bullying will escalate if you respond verbally. BUT, that isn't always true. Because bullying is primarily about power - the bully wants to remove it from you and place it with themselves - the most influential response you can make is NOT to give your power away, and instead to say something back in a clear and firm voice which is neither rude nor inflammatory, but which makes it clear that the bully isn't going to control you, or silence you or easily have it all their own way. Many bullies only use the room for manoeuvre you inadvertently give them, and being still and silent (ie freezing) gives them a lot of room. I'd play it straight back to the bully. In a firm and clear voice, I would say 'what does that mean?' Or I'd make a statement like: 'That is not how I see myself' which I'd say as a fact, without any defensiveness to make it clear that my self-image (ie how I see myself) is my business and not theirs.’
-Aryanne Oade, author of Free Yourself from Workplace Bullying
This kind of response takes practice and bravery. But how amazing would it be if your self-image belonged to you alone?
To kindness in midwifery,
P.S. Have you tried this kind of response? What happened? I'd love to hear, leave a comment. We'll be covering more ideas like this in the Kindness Conference, I'd love to see you there, come and say hello and out for a bite and a drink afterwards! Remember your discount is 'KIND' to get £4.99 off.