For anyone who is thinking, “I want to become a doula!”, learn why your ears will become one of your most important tools of the trade.
In our previous blog post, we talked about how you need to put your clients first when you become a doula. A key part of that is being an effective listener. I can’t state how important it is for a doula to truly understand what their clients want and need.
If you are already decided to become a doula at the International Doula Institute, you may have noticed that this is already built into our curriculum. In addition to learning about labor, birth, and the postpartum period, we want to make sure our doulas have the skills to be amazing communicators. That’s why IDI’s required reading includes books like Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and How to Win Friends and Influence People.
The Today Show recently published an article by Bela Gandhi that lists six strategies to help you sharpen your listening skills. The advice is perfect for anyone who interested in becoming a doula. I recommend reading the full article, but here are some of the takeaways that I found particularly useful for our doula students:
Understand What Your Clients Want
The first strategy listed is “listen to understand.” In fact, Gandhi says that this should be a mantra that you use prior every conversation. After becoming a doula, repeat this manta every time you meet with your clients. To truly support a new family, you need to understand their wishes and goals, and how they want you to help.
Listen to New Mothers Talk About Their Birth
Gandhi states that “a fundamental need for all human beings is to feel heard and understood.” This is especially important for newly postpartum mothers. In the book Mothering the New Mother, author Sally Placksin says that new mothers need to talk about their birth; it is part of the postpartum adjustment cycle. Sometimes, the most important thing you can do for a new mother is be a listening ear.
Let Your Clients Know They’re Being Heard
The fourth strategy listed, “follow up on previous conversations”, helps you put your listening skills to work. Every time you see your clients, circle back to previous meetings. If they mentioned at your last prenatal meeting that they’d be touring their local hospital, ask them what they thought at your next meeting. If they told you that their brother from out of town would be coming to see the baby in between your postpartum shifts, ask them how the visit went. Remembering these details, and encouraging your clients to open up, will impress upon them that you’re really hearing what they’re saying. It tells them that you’re invested in what’s going in their lives.
Practice Makes Perfect
Practice these skills as often as you can! Soon, you’ll find that being a good listener comes naturally. The benefits of being a great listener are obvious when you become a doula, and they will carry over into all aspects of your life.