Segues in to Conversation

For the friend/”observer”/doula of a person dying (or their family member), it is all about the attention of your energy with whom you are speaking. Regardless of who it is, there are 4 basic things to remember.

  1. Remember that you are in your doula role right now. You are not their best friend or family member. I refer to it as wearing your ‘doula shoes.’ Slip them on; come out of who you are at any other time in your life and be in this listening and redirecting mode. You walked into the house/room with your doula shoes on, remember that.
  2. Take deep breaths as a matter of habit as you are in your doula shoes. The conscious habit of deep breathing slows YOU down. It stops YOU for a moment. The pausing will be your cue that you are in your doula role right now. The breaths will remind you to stay quiet, deeply listening to the person, staying curious and continuing to encourage them to talk
  3. When the person you are talking with stops talking. Let it be. Count to 20. Exhale. You take a deep breath. Let the pause be a pleasant break from having to ‘do’ anything. Let go of your need to fix, to fill the space of silence, to save them from themselves, to save you from your growing discomfort (if you are). Remember to count to 20 during pauses.
  4. Remember, you are creating a wide, big “container” for them to spill what is inside of them. The silence and the pausing is doing that. It is creating relief, space, and trust. It is slowing everything down. This practice is creating a huge bucket that has plenty of room to capture all they have to put inside.

When you are having difficulty in conversation for whatever reason, use the following segues to redirect or kick start a new direction. You may realize you are talking about yourself, or they are trying to focus on you instead of themselves. Or they may appear to be having a difficult time sharing.

These segue statements may be helpful:

  • Tell me more
  • What happened then?
  • Please go on
  • Is that right?
  • How did that make you feel?
  • What I’m hearing is…
  • Would that help with…
  • What it sounds like is…

Sometimes the conversation may get heated. Someone may misunderstand you or through no fault of your own, take offense. Some ways to verbally reroute the situation.

  • excellent suggestion. Thank you. I know you have a lot going on. I leave you to get on with your day.
  • Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I really benefited from that. If you’ll excuse me, I need to go back to the office now.
  • Well, I wish I had more time to explore this with you, but I just received word from the office that they need me.
  • I see you’re upset about this. Perhaps when we both have had some time to think about what just happened, we can have another talk.
  • (another trick is to replace “but” with “and”. Insert ‘and’ where you would normally say ‘but’ (you need to practice this one.)
  • I apologize. I meant no harm.


  1. Write down some thoughts about what you just read.
  2. List 3 things in yourself you may need to address/fine tune for you to be able to handle these kinds of situations.
  3. Do you feel comfortable when someone else you are talking with has strong feelings or is upset? Write about this.
  4. Overall, if you are interested in serving professionally in the end-of-life field, are there skills you may need to develop?
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