Communication in Mentoring Relationships

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Anthony Aparicio

Tony taught Business and Aeronautics courses for eight years; he holds a Master's degree in Management and is completing a PhD in Organizational Psychology

Good communication is key in a mentoring relationship. Explore some best practices for communication in mentoring relationships, using an example meeting to learn about communicating empathy and actively listening for potential. Updated: 01/13/2022

The Mentoring Relationship

Mentorship is a special relationship where someone with a great deal of experience helps to guide someone who is rather new, in an attempt to help them to reach their potential and not have to learn the hard way. There are potential benefits for the mentee, who gains a great deal of knowledge and the equivalent of years of experience in a very short time. The mentor also gets to see the business from a brand new perspective and learn how some of the things that worked in the past may have new solutions in our ever-changing world. In this lesson we will follow Mary, an experienced executive with Wazoo Kazoo, Inc., and Matt, a newly hired management trainee.

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  • 0:04 The Mentoring Relationship
  • 0:44 Communication Empathy
  • 2:42 Listening for Potential
  • 3:29 The Meeting
  • 5:07 Lesson Summary
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Communication Empathy

The term empathy is used to describe the ability to put yourself in another person's position and understand the situation from his or her point of view. We will use the term communication empathy to describe the desire to actively listen to the other person while also understanding his or her role within the situation.

Conversations in the mentoring relationship often deal with solving problems. Mentors want to teach mentees how to use a particular set of problem-solving skills and guide them through it without actually doing it for them. Let's look at a sample situation that may help to better understand these concepts.

One of the supervisors in Matt's department came to him and told him about a problem between two of the workers who are always arguing and cannot seem to get much work done. Matt knows that he must deal with this situation right away, but there are many ways to deal with it, and he does not want to make a mistake early on in his management program. So he schedules a lunchtime meeting with Mary to discuss the issue.

Matt wants to have a heightened awareness of both himself as well as Mary so that the problem can be resolved quickly and in a way that he is comfortable doing. He knows that Mary is well known to be good with helping people solve problems so he is hoping to get some good advice. Matt takes Mary's position into account and spends some time before their meeting trying to think of some possible ways to deal with the issue.

Mary knows the problem of dealing with arguing co-workers all too well, and she knows how she would deal with it. However, she needs to be able to give solid advice that will help Matt but also allow him to come up with potential solutions on his own.

In this situation each party is displaying a heightened awareness of both self and their partner in both the communication and problem-solving processes. They are using communication empathy to determine what is best for themselves but also for the other person.

Listening for Potential

Listening for potential is a form of active listening where the person who is approached with a problem focuses on a way to help find a solution as opposed to the problem itself. Active listening is when the listener takes an active role to hear and also understand, attach meaning, remember, and develop an appropriate response. Listening for potential takes active listening a step further, since Mary must listen to Matt and decide whether or not he is capable of solving the problem on his own.

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