Tune in: The Importance of Listening in Mentoring
There is a famous saying that goes, “One who listens need not say much.” Listening is an essential quality of a good mentor.
A mentor must understand, interpret, evaluate, and then react to what a mentee is saying. This calls for mentors to be great listeners. The power of listening can benefit mentors and mentees in sharing knowledge and learning more about each other. A mentor who listens with patience will be more effective in their role by being approachable and liked by many.
- When mentors patiently listen to their mentees, they’ll better understand the emotions weaved into the conversation. This in turn helps mentors prepare suitable mentoring programs. Responses like “I believe you seek more motivation,” “You sound very discouraged,” or “We need to create a balance in work and life” make mentees feel better connected to their mentors.
- The quality of being a good listener is very helpful for a mentor in an organization where mentoring programs are a regular practice. The greater the number of people in an organization, the tougher it becomes to connect with all of them equally. Listening becomes a great way to understand areas of concern for the group and mentors can design program activities geared towards solving them.
There are a few tips that can help mentors become better listeners:
- Create a no-diversion atmosphere: Mentors must listen to mentees in the same way they would like to be listened to. Mentors can promote this by creating an atmosphere with no diversion, undivided attention, and honest conversation. The more a mentor is open to listening, the more a mentee will be comfortable in sharing.
- Specific conduct in program sessions: If mentors present themselves as listeners, mentees are encouraged to talk during the program sessions. For example, if a mentor is asked questions in a written format, he/she should read the questions carefully, seek clarity for unclear parts, and prepare an answer. By paying attention to specific questions asked of them, mentors are in a better position to understand the problem. If lots of questions are asked in a session, a mentor should take some time to answer each one of them and not hurry. If some questions require more time, mentors can address these after the session. Remember, a question can be irrelevant but not unimportant.
- Ask questions using the right words: Even mentors need answers to understand their mentees. When constructing questions, mentors should stay focused, clear, and stick to the subject. They should use the right words directed towards gaining helpful answers. Mentoring relationships are sensitive and evolving, so it’s important to maintain clear communication to avoid incorrect judgments and assumptions.
- Maintain an unbiased approach: A good mentor listens to not just one side of a situation, but all sides. He/she takes a 360-degree view and attempts to understand their mentee by putting themselves in their mentee’s shoes.
- Body language is the key: Half a mentor’s job is done if their gestures indicate undivided attention to their mentees. Physical actions like leaning in, nodding, making eye contact, and folding hands are great signals to mentees that their mentor wants to listen, guide, and support the mentee throughout the mentoring process.
A true mentor will listen to their mentees, make them feel important, and help them achieve their goals.