Effective communication during the mentor/mentee relationship cycle is critical.
Below are the stages of a typical mentoring relationship, with communication tips for building trust and overcoming difficulties at each stage.28
Effective communication during the mentor/mentee relationship cycle
Stage 1: Beginning of the match
Getting to know each other:
- The first impressions
- Trying to see the positive in the relationship
- Ask open-ended questions
- Use body language that is open and not guarded
- Active listening
- Demonstrate empathy
- Avoid ‘prescriptive’ communication (telling someone what to do)
- Use prompts
- Speak with language that you feel comfortable with
- Don’t be afraid of silence.
Stage 2: Challenging and testing
- Testing phase
- Rethinking first impressions
- Difficult feelings or emotions may surface.
- Be consistent in your communication, even if it is difficult
- Demonstrate respect
- Build problem-solving techniques into your open-ended questions
- Raise sensitive issues at the beginning of your interactions
- Make sure to separate behaviours from who the mentee is
- Disclosure of personal feelings and experiences when appropriate.
Stage 3: ‘Real’ mentoring
The relationship begins feeling right again:
- Trust is established
- Growth in the mentee can be observed
- A deeper bond and connection has been formed.
- Continue with disclosures when appropriate
- Avoid advising, and allow young people to actively problem solve
- Build off your knowledge of your mentee’s strengths to foster deeper discussions
- Give positive feedback and don’t be afraid to let your mentee know when something has hurt you.
Stage 4: Ending
Preparing for closure:
- Relationship may become deeper or mentee may start pulling away
- Find common language to sum up your feelings
- Provide feedback that describes growth that you observed
- Be prepared to listen and affirm fears that your mentee may have.