Listening Exercise

Veronica Rohalevich Baroud, Mtein, Lebanon and Linda Wieser, Nova Scotia, Canada

The Listening Exercise is an optional exercise found in Part 3: Leadership Skills and Attitudes of the LARK (Leader Applicant’s Resource Kit). Although it is not an application requirement, many Applicants find it an excellent opportunity to learn how Leaders’ facilitate Series Meetings. Linda Wieser, an Associate Cordinator of Leader Accreditation (ACLA)-at-large for Future Areas in Asia and the Middle East (FAiAsiaME), worked with Veronica Rohalevich Baroud last year on her application for leadership. Here they summarize Veronica’s learning from this optional exercise.

Editor’s note: The Listening Exercise was completed when in-person meetings were being held.

Veronica and her supporting Leader Nadiya Dragan agreed to prepare and conduct the Listening Exercise at one of the LLL Series Meetings. Veronica discovered that encouraging mothers to share their precious experiences and provide them with appropriate information, whenever it is needed, are the ways Leaders hear and understand mothers’ concerns, and support worried parents. The Listening Exercise showed her how Leaders can help mothers become familiar with LLL concepts.

From observing Nadiya lead the meeting and from discussing her observations with Linda, Veronica learned:

  1. Leaders encourage other attendees to respond to a mother’s concern. Thus, they are encouraging the mother-to-mother, peer-to-peer support that is the essence of LLL rather than acting like a healthcare professional who has all the knowledge. The Leader may wait, giving the attendees time to respond, and only jump in to clarify an inaccuracy or summarize the discussion.
  2. Leaders often reference one of the ten concepts. This is an excellent way to introduce LLL philosophy to the Group.
  3. Leaders, along with the attendees, help normalize a mother’s experience and affirm all she has done. A Leader may say: “Your daughter is lucky to have you as her mother.” or “What a gift you are giving your son by breastfeeding him.” It’s important for parents to hear positive feedback about their breastfeeding and parenting experience.
  4. Leaders warmly welcome all attendees at LLL but particularly new ones who might feel uncomfortable, awkward and perhaps, desperate at first. This is a wonderful way to help them feel comfortable, confident, and inspired, so they enjoy the meeting, spread the word and invite their friends to join, too.
  5. Leaders often start the meeting asking all attendees to introduce themselves and answer a simple question as an ice-breaker. This helps the attendees get involved and share their stories right from the beginning of the meeting.
  6. Leaders may work with one of the mothers, one-on-one, after the meeting to try to get a good latch, for example without a nipple shield. When there is more than one Leader at a meeting, one of the Leaders may offer to work with the person in another room so the Leader can observe the baby breastfeeding.
  7. If someone needs to leave early, it’s most important for Leaders to make sure the mother’s question got answered before she leaves. This gives the mother the necessary relief and support which can contribute to her feeling satisfied after attending the meeting. And it may help her decide to come to another meeting in the future.
  8. If someone arrives late to a meeting, it’s important to welcome them and update them on the discussion. This reenforces the nonjudgmental environment at LLL meetings and helps attendees who are late feel comfortable, welcomed and invited to join the conversation.
  9. Rephrasing a mother’s statement can help her see that the Leader was mindfully and carefully listening to her, empathizing with her challenges and wanting to help. Or the Leader might clarify the point the attendee was making and let her explain more.
  10. During the discussion on a specific subject, the Leader displays appropriate books from the LLL Group library. These books can help attendees learn more about common concerns or misconceptions.
  11. The Leader connects mothers with similar concerns (twins, preterm babies, mothers pumping to build and maintain a milk supply for babies in intensive care) with each other. Although a Leader doesn’t need to have had the same experience as the mother to support her, there are times when a parent finds it helpful to talk with someone who has had a similar experience.
  12. The Leader’s role is to support parents and detect what help they need. Through sharing their experiences, Leaders and other attendees help each other understand what’s important to them. Leaders only give suggestions and information; parents decide what suits their families. Leaders empower mothers to make decisions which are right for them.

Preparing for leadership is a significant transformational stage from being a mother who seeks support to a mother who gives this support. Veronica found the Listening Exercise was a valuable and enriching practice to help with this transition. Reminding herself about the role of a Leader helped her appreciate the importance of creating a friendly and supportive atmosphere at the meeting in order to:

  • Welcome mothers into discussion,
  • Help mothers feel comfortable, confident and proud by affirming their efforts and progress
  • Encourage parents to ask questions and address their concerns
  • Provide mothers with reliable up-to-date information and
  • Help them to seek necessary information in reliable resources, books or websites.

The main role as a Leader is to provide parents with helpful information, support them and ultimately encourage them to decide what suits their families.

Veronica Rohalevich Baroud, originally from Belarus, lives in Mtein, Lebanon. She and her husband, Amine have three daughters: Leonie, 11 years old, Yasmina, 8 years old, and the youngest Melinda who is 2.9 years. In 2018 Veronica attended her first LLL meeting while pregnant with her youngest child and since that time has learned a lot about breastfeeding. With her third daughter she finally succeeded and enjoyed her breastfeeding journey. Once familiar with LLL Philosophy and the atmosphere that prevails at LLL meetings, Veronica soon decided to become a Leader and help other breastfeeding mothers find their own success as well.

Linda Wieser lives in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada. Linda and husband Jim have two grown daughters and four grandchildren. Linda has been a Leader since 1984. She is currently International Director of the Leader Accreditation Department (DLAD). Linda is also Contributing Editor for “Preparing for Leadership” in Leader Today and Contributing Editor for “How Would Your Respond?” in LADders, a publication for LAD representatives. Last year, Linda worked with her neighbour Reid Campbell, to create the new application work videos.

Listening Exercise

At the Series Meeting, you and your Leader observe. If possible, ask another Leader to be responsible for the meeting. If there is only one Leader in your Group, you could still do the exercise, or the two of you could attend another Group’s meeting. You and the Leader meet within a few days for discussion.

Note what a few mothers say during the meeting, questions they ask, concerns they express, and/or some reactions to what others say.


What you “heard” and what the Leader “heard”

What was the mother saying or asking or worried about?

How was the statement or question or concern received by the other people: Leader(s), experienced LLL members, other mothers? How did you react, both inside and verbally?


The different responses of the Leader “group” and the attending “group”

Why the Leader reacted in a particular manner

How this tied in with the meeting goals and with La Leche League’s philosophy of helping

The different responsibilities of the Leader, the Group helper, the Leader Applicant, and other participants at a Series Meeting

If you are concerned about your inner reaction, this might be a good time to look at those feelings; if you can’t come to terms with them, you might place yourself in a stressful position as an LLL Leader; or you might find that at the same time as you explore your feelings, you clear away some misunderstandings about La Leche League or the Leader’s role.


How particular responses or reactions may or may not be helpful to a mother and why How some statements or reactions can be modified to become more effective.

Include, if relevant, discussion of vocabulary, body language, how Leaders can set the tone of the responses and reactions of a group.

During your discussions, you may find it helpful to refer to the Leader’s Handbook and to Communication Skills exercises.