Better questions lead to better information

When you’re evaluating how your client is doing after the birth of their baby, how you phrase a question can make a huge difference in the answers you get. Let’s look at some examples:

You doing okay? vs. How much sleep are you getting?

With the first question, the easy route is to say yes. The harder route is to say no – it can feel like an admission of defeat. The second gives you some information, opens up a conversation and the stakes feel much lower.

Who is helping you? vs. Do you need anything?

Asking about the help your client is getting normalizes the need for help, while asking if they need help can lead you client into thinking they have to seem strong and independent and not need a thing.

Let me know if you need anything vs. How can I help?

The first puts more responsibility on your client to reach out and the second makes for an easier opening to ask for what they might need.

Is your baby a good baby? vs. What’s the best part? The most challenging?

Does any new parent tell someone their baby is a “bad baby”? Extremely unlikely! That leaves “yes” as the only possible answer to the first question. Instead opening with asking what is the best part, and giving them a chance to reflect and share on that, before moving on to the question about what is most challenging, can give you a better picture of how they are doing and you can get to the heart of reinforcing confidence and assisting with challenges.

Tips for better questions:

  • Avoid yes or no questions – when your goal is to connect, understand and help, you need more than a one word answer
  • Ask specific questions – You can start with a wider ranging “how are you doing?” but also ask about specifics about sleep, healing from birth, emotional state, etc. Work them into the conversation sporadically, you want conversation, not inquisition.
  • Avoid leading questions – Sometimes people have an instinct to please and give the expected answer, even if it’s not the right answer. If you ask “Everything going good?” while nodding, it’s harder to disagree than to be honest with a neutral question like “How are you managing?”
  • Ask them personally – You can do it in person, over the phone, or by text, but definitely avoid a questionnaire. The personal connection is far too important.
  • Avoid questions that have a “right” answer – Even if you *think* you know how they feel, a question like “Aren’t you glad you got your VBAC?” has a clear and definite answer that is hard to contradict. A simpler “How are you feeling about how your birth went?” gives you a better start to the conversation.
  • Be prepared to follow up – at some point in your career, you’re going to get an answer that opens up issues far beyond your training and scope. Have resources on hand for lactation issues, mental health issues and relationship issues you might hear about.

In order to best serve families who just had a baby, you need to really connect and be open to hearing all kinds of responses. Carefully considering the questions you ask can help you do that.

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