Being a good listener is one of the most crucial skills a postpartum doula will utilize. Although many of our clients won’t hire us just because they are looking for a good listener, time and again my clients have noted feeling validated, heard, and understood in testimonials. Thankfully, it’s a skill that can actually be developed. While some people seem to be born as good listeners and others struggle, most of us can work towards becoming more effective listeners for the benefit of the families we support.
Develop Listening Skills By Reading More
There are shared areas of the brain that are used in both listening and reading. Reading more often can improve your listening skills by exercising mutually important areas of the brain. Good readers are often good listeners, and there’s good reason for that. You can trick your brain into becoming better at listening by using these two proven ways to improve your reading skills.
First, find a place where you won’t be interrupted while reading. Perhaps on the way to a client’s house, you can schedule some reading time at a quiet park or even just alone in your car. Keep a dictionary/smart phone handy, in case you don’t recognize a word, and keep a list of new words that you learn in a notebook.
Second, read for 15 to 30 extra minutes each day. Check your comprehension by summarizing what you just read. You can implement your newly honed skill of summarizing information while working with clients. During postpartum doula training we discuss answering question new parents have for us. When asked a question that can be answered with facts, do that. After reading books on your postpartum doula required reading list you can summarize information for clients by taking the most important bits of information and sharing them when appropriate.
Watch Videos To Practice Your Listening Skills
Another great way to improve listening is just by practicing. Have you ever watched TEDx Talks speeches? These are great because speakers give information rich short speeches. You can practice listening by watching them. Find a short video, less than twenty minutes long. As you watch it, be careful to notice if you are trying to think ahead or really listening to what the speaker is saying. Are you thinking about other things? Practice listening by restarting the video from the beginning if you notice that you have gotten off track in your listening.
As you listen, carefully register main points and minor points in your mind. Be mindful as you listen. Avoid judgement and offer the speaker unconditional positive regard. Once the video is over, retell the speech in your own words. You can do this verbally, but if you write it down, it might be able to help you even more. You can then go back and re-watch the video and then see how many of the major and minor points you were able to remember.
In our line of work as postpartum doulas, we are often called to listen to someone carefully. Watching speeches can help us. Build your comprehension capacity further by challenging yourself to longer videos once you are able to successfully listen to shorter dialogue.
Learn About And Practice Active Listening
There is a technique called Active Listening that can be enormously beneficial for postpartum doulas. It’s something we learn about and practice during postpartum doula training. You can watch a short TEDx Talks video on the subject of listening here – A Case for Active Listening: Jason Chare. Try practicing your comprehension by making this your first practice video.
Also notice that the speaker shares a story about calling a mental health life line, the people who answer don’t ever give advice. They reflect back what they’ve heard, and they summarize to check for understanding. These are the skills that help our clients feel heard.
For more practice with active listening read Becoming Active Listeners: Love in Action by Margi Deneau-Saxton, CPD, CCCE.
CPD, Postpartum Doula Faculty, Social Media Director
Jill Reiter, owner of The After Baby Lady, began hosting CAPPA Radio in 2014. Prior to that she earned her Bachelors of Art in Secondary English Education in 2002 from Western Michigan University. Although Jill is no longer working as a middle school teacher, she is passionate about learning and sharing knowledge. When she isn’t hosting CAPPA Radio, Jill is training women to be postpartum doulas as a member of the CAPPA Faculty or serving families as a certified postpartum doula. Jill lives in the metro Detroit area of Michigan with her four young children and a supportive husband. Never one to shy away from an interesting conversation about pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, parenting, and babies CAPPA Radio gives her an opportunity to share these conversations with others. If you would like to be a guest on CAPPA Radio, please email us at CappaRadioHost@cappa.net.