Editorial: in a world where you can be anything... be kind

By Suzanne Tyler on 23 November 2018 Midwives Magazine RCM Annual Conference

October’s RCM annual conference was our biggest yet.

Over two days, 3500 RCM members came together to share experiences and expertise, debate challenges and professional issues, 
be inspired, laugh and cry. Thank you to everyone who made this such a positive event, your evaluations have demonstrated why getting together as a community is so important for OUR RCM.

The overwhelming message that emerged, spontaneously, from all of our presenters and contributors – was ‘be kind’. Be kind to the women and families you care for, be kind to your colleagues and be kind to yourself. Being kind is more than a slogan on a T-shirt. We can’t change the world, but with a bit of kindness and forgiveness we can make our own lives and the lives of those around us a bit better, one birth at a time, and one day at a time.

There is much talk about low morale, bullying and undermining behaviours in maternity. Sometimes it seems we have these conversations without acknowledging our individual responsibility for our working culture and behaviours. It’s almost as if all of us are victims and none of us are perpetrators? I’ve come back from conference determined to look at my own actions and inactions, to celebrate the kindness and forgiveness I see in others, but also to call out colleagues, friends and others when I see a lack of kindness. That includes harsh language used in social media, harsh words spoken between colleagues, eye rolling, taking things for granted and jumping to conclusions – those small, unkind and unforgiving gestures which cumulatively make for an undermining culture. I’m also committed to putting renewed energy behind the RCM’s Caring For You initiative, by focusing on the positive things that make a difference.

Researchers at Harvard Business School have found that once people get into the loop of being kind, feelings of happiness follow. Being kind at work benefits the people who do an act of kindness, the recipients, the organisation and the overall organisational climate. So regardless of what everyone else is doing, why don’t we all commit to being kinder?

There is good evidence that forgiveness is good for your own wellbeing and that of your organisation too. Conflict is inevitable, and left unheeded is associated with significant stress. We all make mistakes. When people see others practising forgiveness, it often fosters positive emotions that can improve decision-making, cognitive functioning and the quality of relationships.

OUR RCM contains a rich spectrum of opinions on everything from what constitutes the best maternity practices to what the RCM’s priorities should be. 48,000 individuals are unlikely to agree about everything; but let’s pledge to conduct our debates in a spirit of kindness and forgiveness.