It is important that mentors communicate effectively with mentees so that the relationship can offer the most appropriate support. Effective communication involves the ability to listen carefully to the concerns expressed by mentees, to focus on the issues of most importance, and to encourage mentees to articulate their core concerns. This is different to everyday conversations where both people are usually more interested in their own viewpoint.
Guidelines for effective communication
- Ask open questions (What? Why? How?) – this encourages dialogue and a deeper exploration of issues
- Listen effectively (see next section)
- Paraphrase – taking what the speaker says and presenting it to them in your own words – this demonstrates that you understand what they wish to communicate
- Clarify – it is very important to clarify both what is said and what is heard. This can be done by asking questions like “do you understand what I mean by this?”, “ Exactly what does this involve?”, “Are you saying that…?”
- Summarise – presenting back what has been told to you in summary form helps ensure comprehension
- Empathise – being able to put yourself into someone else’s shoes
Techniques for effective listening
- Stop talking – you can’t listen while you are talking.
- Don’t interrupt – by not interrupting you allow the other person to say what they want rather than you butting in with what is of interest to you.
- Concentrate on what is being said – paraphrase and summarise as appropriate.
- Leave your own worries and concerns aside when listening to your mentee.
- Avoid distractions – choose an appropriate location.
- Avoid judgemental interventions.
- Resist feeling that you must solve the problem – you are there to listen and to help the mentee find their solution to their problem.
- Don’t be afraid of silence – sometimes people need time to think.
- Use positive body language- open posture - eye contact – nodding.