Being empathetic toward your mentee is the essence of a mentoring relationship.
No matter a mentee’s life circumstances, a mentor must be careful to be empathetic rather than sympathetic.
An empathetic relationship is one where the mentor strives to understand as much as possible what the mentee is going through and how the mentee is feeling. Taking a genuine interest in your mentee’s life experiences and feelings can help to build a sense of trust and commitment to working together.
When you demonstrate empathy toward your mentee, you are modeling important skills. The more empathetic your mentee is able to be, the greater the likelihood that her relationships with others will be healthy.
In a sympathetic relationship, the mentor would feel sorry for the mentee. This can lead to lowered expectations and excusing the mentee for not living up to her potential.
Develop an empathetic relationship through active listening.
How do you show your mentee that you are genuinely interested in his life and feelings? Active listening is a method of listening that is just as much about hearing the words as it is about making sure that the speaker knows you are paying attention and really understanding what he is saying. Many of the skills in this module are “active listening” skills.
For starters, take a moment to think about how you know when someone is really listening to you. What does that person’s body posture look like? What about the person’s facial expressions? What kinds of sounds and words might the person use? This is your first step: to master what listening looks and sounds like.