Communication skills are of the greatest importance to me, as a doula, educator, parent, and person. I fell in love with this piece because it offers easy-to-follow ideas. There really is no place in life where we don't need to use communication skills -- so refining them will help us not only as doulas, but also as members of families, communities, and the world.
As doulas our profession is one that is infused with passion. We are passionate about the families that we serve and the beliefs that we hold, but unfortunately a doula’s passion does not always translate into professional communication. There seems to be a never ending obstacle course for doulas in their struggle to conduct themselves in such a manner that honors the profession that they have chosen. Unprofessional conduct from doulas spans from scope of practice violations to lack of respect towards fellow doulas and other providers such as nurses, midwives, and obstetricians. How many times have you read a doula’s post criticizing a nurse or provider’s actions at a birth she recently attended? Have you met a doula who is quick to speak negatively about another doula behind her back or criticize a doula for doing things differently? Doulas then wonder, “Why isn’t the nurse more accepting of me?” or “Why doesn’t that doula refer clients to me?”
Unprofessional conduct is not only an obstacle to a doula’s personal practice, but it breaks down the level of professionalism within the doula community as a whole. Professional conduct is actually an easy skill to master. At the heart of professionalism lies communication. With the advent of electronic communication, personal communication skills have seen a significant breakdown. If you don’t use it, apparently you lose it. Luckily, by adhering to the following communication 101 principles a doula can maintain a level of professionalism at all times.
1. Think before you speak/act/email. Remember the old adage to count to 10 before speaking? Turns out that this isn’t just a line your parents made up but is a timeless truth. Taking a moment before responding, whether in person or by electronic communication, can easily avoid a knee-jerk response that can cause irreparable harm. When it comes to electronic communication, think about whether you would actually say what you are typing if the person was sitting in front of you.
2. Speak with integrity. Choose your words carefully! Avoid words that intentionally inflame or create gossip. Ask yourself, “Is this how I would like to be spoken of/about?” Keep private subjects private, and avoid flaming or gossiping about other professionals in public forums.
3. Keep your promises. If you say you can back someone up, help with an event, etc., then do it. If you aren’t sure, don’t commit. Be clear when you communicate expectations around working with other professionals so that miscommunication doesn’t cause you to go back on your word. Don’t leave other professionals or clients in the lurch.
4. Don’t Assume. I am sure you know the expression about assuming! If you are ever unsure, clarify with the person directly, and by directly I mean in person as long as it is conceivably possible. While electronic communication can be an effective tool for a quick message, tone and body language are totally lost and these are integral to meaningful conversations. To not take the time to sit down and talk in person might send a negative message about your level of professionalism and respect for clients or colleagues, no matter what profession you are in.
5. Treat others the way you would like them to treat you. Is the provider at your client’s birth less than pleasant? Is a particular doula not giving you a warm fuzzy? You have no idea what that person has gone through that particular day. Maybe that person is struggling. Perhaps their loved one is critically ill. Perhaps they have been up for 24 hours working non-stop. Rather than taking it personally and speaking ill of that person behind their back, try extending that individual some grace and empathy. Ask yourself, “How would I like to be treated?”
By following these communication 101 skills, you can not only improve your own personal practice, but you can also help to further the level of doula professionalism as a whole. Be an advocate for all doulas by starting with your own professional conduct!
Heather Scott is a childbirth educator and a doula through the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association. In more recent years Heather has expanded her practice through earning her Bachelor’s in nursing from Regis University and is a registered nurse in the birth center setting where she has worked since 2008. Heather graduated in 2016 from the Frontier Nursing University MSN program and is a Certified Nurse Midwife. Heather and her family live in the foothills southwest of Denver. When not attending a birth or teaching a childbirth class Heather can be found spending as much quality time as possible with her husband, four children and usually a furry friend or two in the background! It is with great enthusiasm that Heather seeks to provide families with quality support through Cocoon Birth whose mission is to nurture, empower and honor your family.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)