Mary Cronk’s Assertiveness Phrases

Following on from my “Am I Allowed post” I phoned my dear friend and former colleague Mary Cronk. As well as a good chat with each other, I obtained her permission to post her assertiveness phrases. She re-quoted the phrases that I know by heart, and have recommended to many women. I had the pleasure of working with Mary Cronk for 5 years as an Independent Midwife, and a further 2 as co-teacher of “Once More Unto The Breech” workshops. She is a true Midwife and has spent her life helping women achieve positive birth experiences.

joy and mary307710_251788671525311_932911360_nMary Cronk is an expert in breech birth who has shared the skills of breech birth with midwives and doctors across the United kingdom. She was awarded a MBE for her services to women.

See Mary in action here: Mary

You may find these phrases useful, particularly if told that you are “not allowed” to have your baby at home, or you “have to” be induced, etc.

“I am sure that many others will explain your absolute right to refuse any procedure for any or no reason. The law, and good practice is quite clear. A sensible person will listen carefully to any explanations to why a procedure is proposed, and then should she choose not to have XY or Z she just says no or no thank you. The “allowing” is done by YOU. An asssertive approach is worth cultivating. You may care to commit the following phrases to memory and practice them frequently in front of a mirror.

1. “Thank you so much Midwife Sinister/ Mr Hi-an-my-tee, for your advice. We will consider this carefully and let you know our decision.” Sweet Smile! This one is most useful in the antenatal stage, though it can be used in labour. It can just take a minute to consider what you either want to know, or what you decide.

2. “Would you like to reconsider what you have just said!” Fierce glare. This is useful and, for example, applies to the misuse of the word “allow”.

3. “I do not believe you can have heard what I have just said. Shall I repeat myself? ”

4. “I am afraid I will have to regard any further discussion as harrassment.” This is used if the person does not respect your decision or persists in pressing the subject.

5. “What is your NMC or GMC pin number?” This is used if 4 is ineffective. If the person asks why you want their pin number, inform them that this is something they might like to consider.

6. “STOP THIS AT ONCE”. This to be used in extremis. I am delighted to tell you that this was used AGAINST me by a woman to whom I had taught it. I was doing a difficult VE and was being too persistent. I stopped at once and learnt a lesson.

Do not argue; learn the phrases and keep them or similar for use if necessary. I am informed that it is usually only necessary to be assertive once or twice to have a much more respectful attitude from the people who are actually your PROFESSIONAL SERVANTS.”

Mary Cronk



10 thoughts on “Mary Cronk’s Assertiveness Phrases

  1. Lucy says:

    I love this Joy – do you think that you could ask Mary if I could have permission to print it & hand it out to women who attend my pregnancy yoga classes? I get so many saying “I’m not allowed…” and “…if they let me…” and it breaks my heart. I remind them that it is their body, their baby, their birth etc, and encourage them to ask if things are an emergency first, and if not then to ask all the questions they need to about anything that they don’t want/like the sound of so that if it is truly necessary they will be fully informed in their consent, but I think stock phrases like these can really empower women, and their birth partners, when faced with medical superiority complexes!

    • admin says:

      Hi Lucy,
      It is so important that women know their rights. Do you use T-BRAIN tool?
      T – is there TIME to discuss options or is it an emergency?
      B – What are the BENEFITS of this suggested treatment?
      R – Are there any RISKS associated with this treatment?
      A – Are there any ALTERNATIVES we could try?
      I – Use your own INSTINCT or initiative (or even internet research)to weigh up the information you’ve been given.
      N – What if we do NOTHING? What would happen if we wait another (insert period of time) then re-evaluate?
      Mary’s phrases are also available on line at
      I’m fairly sure you can quote her, but I’ll certainly ask her when we next speak.
      love Joy. x

  2. Kirra says:

    I really love this, it’s so important for women to know they have this right! Unfortunately I see all to often, mamas being bullied into things they don’t want. I’m interested to know what can be said or done in the situation of a + GBS test where mother refuses ABs during labour and for her baby after birth, unless of course baby is ill. If mum consents to obs of babe for the recommended time frame but refuses ABs, where does she stand assuming babe is well and shows no signs of infection? And what things can she say to staff pushing ABs?
    Thanks again 🙂

    • Joy says:

      Dear Kirra,
      are you a midwife in the UK? The NMC midwives code available here state:
      Ensure you gain consent
      13 You must ensure that you gain consent before you begin any treatment or care.
      14 You must respect and support people’s rights to accept or decline treatment and care.
      15 You must uphold people’s rights to be fully involved in decisions about their care.”

      Point 14 supports a woman’s right to accept or decline any form of treatment. Women need to be informed of risks and benefits of having, or not having antibiotics in labour. The choice is then up to them. It our job to provide them with unbiased information (if possible), document our conversation, give the woman time to decide, and document her response.

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