What is the proper amount of personal disclosure in mentoring and when does it cross the line?
I sometimes get this question when speaking to a mentor or mentoree. There is no one correct answer because each relationship is unique. Clearly if the mentoring pair builds mutual trust, then over time both partners will most likely reveal some personal information or stories that inform how they act in the world. This is perfectly fine because it is often this personal information that really impacts one's success.
However, there is a difference between (1) stating that your reluctance to be more assertive is due to the family environment you experienced as a child and (2) spending most of your time in the mentoring session focusing on your family history. Mentors are not therapists—they are guides. They partner with the mentoree to help a mentoree find his or her “way" in their career development— not in one's recovery from a bad family history.
For either the mentor or mentoree, the question to ask when considering sharing personal information is "How much do I need to share that will be of value in dealing with the goals we are currently working on?" A reflection on this can help provide a boundary as to how much to share at any given moment with your partner.
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