Mentoring – Part 5: Communicating with your mentee

Successful mentoring relationships are linked to positive youth outcomes. Explore tips for communicating with mentees.

Effective communication is essential to building a trusting and strong mentoring relationship. Young people are still learning how to communicate successfully and they often rely on their mentors to take the lead and teach them how to communicate in this unique relationship.  Michigan State University Extension recently released “Ready to Go: Mentor Training Tool Kit,” which provides 56 activities that mentoring programs can use in training to assist mentoring programs in building mentor skills. In Module 3: Communication, we share some tips for healthy communication in mentoring relationships.

  1. Listen. Listening involves more than just hearing what is said. Active listening requires hearing, interpreting and responding to what someone says.
  2. Pay attention to non-verbal communication such as eye contact, tone, facial expression and body language. Sometimes words and non-verbals do not match. When this happens, it is important to ask questions for clarification.
  3. Use “I” statements. An “I” Statement is one method by which a speaker clearly states what he is feeling because of a specific behavior, action or event and what action he would like taken to change the situation. The use of an “I” Statement allows the speaker to take ownership of his feelings without placing the blame for his emotions on the person he is communicating with. “I-statements” are set up with the following formula: “I feel ___ when you ____ because ____. What I need/want/would like is____.”
  4. Ask questions and summarize. Active listening requires the listener to understand the intent of what is being said. Clarifying through questions and summarizing what is heard helps ensure that you understand meaning.
  5. Every culture, generation and profession has its own jargon that can be misinterpreted by others. Your mentees may use a word that has multiple meanings. When in doubt, ask. In many cases, you should ask, even if you think you understand.
  6. When communicating electronically by email, text, Facebook or instant messages, we often lose meaning and increase the chances of miscommunication. When talking about important topics, it is wise to talk in person if at all possible.

Mentoring is a process and not a destination. Enjoy the process and seek support from program staff when needed. You are sure to make a difference in the life of a young person and you will probably experience more benefits than you can imagine.

For more mentoring tips, see these articles and the Mentoring section of the MSU Extension website:

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