Everyday Mentor Skill Building
Being an everyday mentor is not an inborn skill where you either have "it" or you don't. Instead, like most things in life, it can take practice to build the skills important when acting as an everyday mentor. Here are a few ideas to help you get started.
1. Initiating Tough Conversations
Making a difference in someone’s life can be difficult. Tough topics can feel daunting. Here are some tips for making it easier: Create a Safe Space Where you talk matters. Plan conversations in places that are emotionally neutral and comfortable for both of you. Or talk during activities you normally do together—like a bike ride, a walk or grabbing a bite. Ensure Confidentiality If they’re confident that what they share stays between the two of you, they’ll be more likely to respond in future conversations. They might even initiate them. Listen Completely No distractions. No judgment. No multi-tasking. Zero criticism. Be fully present and focused on them. This lets them feel heard, even honored and respected. And the better they feel, the more they’ll talk. Ask Open-ended Questions By replacing questions requiring yes/no answers with open-ended ones, you encourage sharing of thoughts and personal perspective. Do ask: “What was that like for you? Don’t ask: “Were you afraid?” The second question labels the experience and offers an easy answer. The first one requires them to confront and express their individual feelings. Make Conversations Two-way No lecturing. No preaching. No excessive advice. A respectful back-and-forth exchange allows them to express feelings and reactions. And it makes them more likely to engage in future conversations. Grab Teachable Moments Often the most effective conversations are ones that aren’t planned. If an opportunity to address an issue pops up—in an event, during a TV show, on the street—capitalize on it to provide real-life examples and initiate spontaneous reactions. Baby Steps Don’t try to do it all in one conversation. Keep a dialogue going in small bits, over time. Handling tough topics little by little makes them less overwhelming. It allows them (and you) to digest and process ideas before jumping too far ahead.
2. Active Listening
Active listening involves both verbal and nonverbal skills—and both send strong signals. The more we focus on what’s being shared with us, the more we’ll understand and build connections. Stay focused No distractions. No multitasking. No thinking about other demands. Try to be fully present. This lets them feel heard and respected. Provide prompts These are phrases that indicate you’re listening. Prompt examples: “ummhmm” “Wow, amazing…” “I get that…” “…and then what happened?” Paraphrase Paraphrases are quick summaries of what someone is sharing. In your own words, play back what they just told you. This has several benefits:
- conveys that you indeed have been listening
- gives them a fresh perspective on what they said
- ensures that you heard correctly and offers a chance for them to explain more if you didn’t
- validates your empathy, acceptance and positive regard