Webster defines attune as: to cause (a person, company, etc.) to have a better understanding of what is needed or wanted by a particular person or group.
But is it so, so much more.
The ability to attune is vital in doula work. Not all laboring mothers or their partners need the same thing from their doula and a doula needs to be able to decipher what mom or partner needs from her in an instant. It varies. Some women need lots of touch, others need lots of talk, still others want nothing more than your reassuring presence. One mom may, in the moment, be ok with straying from her birth plan while another will do anything not to deviate from it. A doula can recognize the differences in her body language and tone through attuning to her and be able to react appropriately right away.
Some people can naturally do this without a second though. I think you will find most of the doula community has a gift for attuning. But as with any gift, it can get better with work.
The ability to attune also depends on a persons understanding ofsympathy versus empathy.
Sympathy is defined as: the feeling that you care about and are sorry about someone else's trouble, grief, misfortune, etc. : a sympathetic feeling.
Empathy is defined as: the feeling that you understand and share another person's experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else's feelings.
The essential difference between empathy and sypmathy is that when you are sympathetic your merely feel sorry for someone, when you are empathetic you allow yourself to feel as they do by putting yourself in their position.
Being empathetic allows your doula to react just as you want her to, because instead of only allowing herself to view situations as an outside observer she is placing herself in your shoes, in your head, so she can react in the best possible way to serve you.