As birth professionals this is definitely something that you will come in contact with. There are so many factors going into a birth. Many you can control and many you can’t. Talk about a hormonally charged profession. Groups of women who are often on the fringe of legality and acceptance working with hormonal, uncomfortable and often sleep deprived women, truly it is a recipe for disaster. So it should be no surprise to us when someone is not completely 100% satisfied with their experience. But man it hurts to hear it. As midwives we give so much of our selves to our clients. To hear that is may not have been enough cuts deep. However criticism can be to our benefit if we handle it appropriately. I have birthed with four different midwives, worked with dozens of other doctors and midwives and have helped numerous couples with their births placing me often on the giving and receiving end of criticism. I have been on both ends of this and here is what I have learned and what I aim for.
Here are some ideas on how to receive and react to criticism.
- When someone approaches you wanting to give feedback make sure you have adequate time to fully discuss the issue. The last thing you need added to the criticism is feeling like it is rushed and not complete. Nobody likes unfinished business.
- If you are extra sensitive and emotional ask to receive the feedback in a medium that both you and the client are comfortable with. I am a verbal person so I would much rather have a conversation in person or on the phone while others might prefer email or a feedback form. If you know you can’t contain your emotions while receiving feedback in one way choose one that you can.
- Stop your first reaction. Take a deep breath and think of the situation from all points of view. Remember especially when dealing with birth it often doesn’t matter what happened what mattered is how they feel about it.
- Listen to the entire feedback with out interrupting. Pay attention to your eye contact and physical cues making sure they are appropriate and show your sincere desire to hear them out.
- Reflect and say back to them as close as word for word as you can what they told you. This will give you a chance to avoid misunderstanding and gives the critic a chance to hear exactly how they worded things. It then gives them a chance to clarify if that wasn’t exactly what they meant.
- Ask specific questions to clarify. Was it something you did specifically? Was a feeling the person had? Was it something not related to you that is being clumped with you because you were there?
- While validating their concerns and feelings refer back to the original goals that were laid out together before hand.
- Ask if they have any questions they want answered about the experience or did they just want their feelings known?
- Answer their questions in a non-defensive manor paying close attention in validating anything they might be feeling.
- Thank them for their honesty.(And mean it!)
- Ask if there is anything you can do.
Things to remember about receiving feedback as a birth professional
- Constructive feedback is how we learn and grow
- You can not please everyone all of the time.
- The birth is about them and not about you.
- You are likely to hear one negative feedback for every ten positive experiences that clients have. The negative are much more likely to be shared.
- Never put a time limit on them processing their birth or experience. Just because their “baby” is ten doesn’t mean that the experience is not still impacting them.
- Don’t talk about the client giving you negative feedback to other clients or midwives. Making them look the fool doesn’t help you any.
- Remember that like and dislike are not the same as good and bad. Someone may not like something you did but that does not necessarily mean they think you are bad.
- In the end be the better person. Birth is so amazing, emotional, memorable and life changing a receptive care provider can make a world of difference. Each woman only gets a few births to learn and grow but us as midwives have many.