Business Mentoring Matters

Effective Mentoring Strategies: Say Hello to Mindful Listening

Posted on Tue, Aug, 14, 2018

Mindfulness has become a popular buzzword, and for good reason: it promotes stress reduction and the calming of racing thoughts by encouraging us to come back to the present moment.

Mindfulness involves breathing deeply and directing your attention to one of your senses. For example, taking deep breaths and focusingYoung woman cupping her hand behind her ear with head turned aside on what you're hearing in that moment, such as voices in the hallway or the whirring of a nearby fan, can help you focus on the now. By being present, we can learn to worry less about stuff that hasn't happened yet and to let go of those things we can't change from our past.

Mindfulness is easy to learn, non-invasive, and something people can do almost anywhere. That's a very simple overview, and if you want to learn more, visit Mindful.org.

When it comes to mentoring, being mentally "present" for the mentoring sessions is critical. So it makes sense for both mentors and mentorees to practice mindfulness as they're about to enter their sessions together.

But here's something else mentors and mentorees should practice as well: mindful listening.

All of us understand the importance of listening when communicating with another person. However, in an environment where multi-tasking is highly praised, we can easily forget some of the basic ideas behind good listening, the most important of which is being fully present and hearing what the other person is saying.

What follows is a review of the elements of mindful listening.

Mindful Listening as a Mentor

Listen to your present

Take a deep breath and while exhaling, become aware of what is uppermost in your mind (your last phone call, that deadline you have to meet, etc.) and decide to put this aside until after the session is over so you're not distracted in your work with your mentoree today.

Listen to your expectations

Imagine your partner and become aware of your own expectations for today’s session. Be mindful that today’s session is not about meeting your expectations, but about being available to what your mentoree needs.

Listen to your experience

Remember that your life and career experiences have led you to serving as a mentor and that this wealth of wisdom is the treasury that you offer to your mentoree.

Listen to your authenticity

Remember who you are. No one expects you to be perfect or to have all the answers. Simply be your genuine self and be willing to help in the best way you can as the unique person you are.

Listen with intention

Make a conscious decision that you will bring your full awareness to today’s session. The act of doing this will make a difference in how you interact and what you bring to the session.

Listen beyond your preconceived notions

Labels, stereotypes, and judgments affect your ability to be open to possibilities in your interactions with your mentoree. What preconceived notions do you still hold about your partner and what impact are they having on your relationship? What can you do to change these perceptions?

Listen “wholistically”

With your mentoree, listen not only to the spoken words, but also to subtext, body language, mood, etc. Communication is greater than the sum of words. Open yourself up to listening to the entire message your mentoree is trying to convey.

Listen to diversity

Be open to your mentoree's unique experiences regarding culture, race, religion, gender, etc. Be open to differences even as you might search for common ground.

Listen to the silence

Silence is where important insights blossom. Don’t fear the pauses. Rather, accompany your mentoree in the silence and allow that person to struggle with it and see what arises from that experience. Support the silence as an opportunity for growth.

Listen for the question

Giving answers is the easiest part of being a mentor. Often, however, unstated questions are the most critical to a mentoree’s development. What is your mentoree really asking or seeking? Help him or her discover their answer to that question and you will have truly assisted in their transformation.

Listen for meaning

Your mentoree is not simply striving to develop professionally; your mentoree wants to transform and create a meaningful life. Listen for what the mentoree values. Help them incorporate what they're learning into who they want to become.

Mindful Listening as a Mentoree

Listen to your present

Take a deep breath and while exhaling, become aware of what is uppermost in your mind (your last phone call, that deadline you have to meet, etc.) and decide to put this aside until after the session is over so you're not distracted in your work with your mentor today.

Listen to your expectations

Imagine your mentor and become aware of what you're expecting from them. Be mindful that your mentor’s role is to support you in your journey and not provide all the answers. Be open to whatever happens in today’s session, regardless of your expectations.

Listen to your authenticity

Remember who you are. As a mentoree, you are the one responsible for your own development. Be honest in your interactions with your mentor as trust develops so that you can take the risks this opportunity provides you.

Listen with intention

Make a conscious decision that you will bring your full awareness to today’s session. The act of doing this will make a difference in how you interact and what you bring to the session.

Listen with openness

Let go of being certain about the specific goal(s) you are working on, the approach you should be taking, or the path you should be following. Be open to exploring alternatives in conversations with your mentor. Think creatively and be ready to explore as a means to true self-discovery.

Listen to the silence

Silence is where important insights blossom. Don’t fear the pauses. Rather, listen deeply within yourself and see what arises during that silence, which is often the spark that leads to real understanding and change.

Listen with gratitude

Your mentor feels responsible for assisting you. Whatever your mentor shares with you, be thankful for the effort and the commitment. Listen deeply, and you can often discover a learnable lesson in whatever your mentor shares.

Listen to reflect

The impact from each mentoring session extends beyond any particular meeting. Listen to the impact it has the next day, the next week, etc. Reflect on your experience and you’ll find that you will have gained more than you might have originally thought. Remember, mentoring has a ripple effect—be mindful of that effect on you.

Listen for change

Mentoring results in change. Listen to those moments in mentoring which call you to change. This means being open to hearing things that may be difficult. Change requires courage. Be willing to believe in yourself to make those changes that will truly make you the person you want to become.

Listen to the future

Mentoring is about creating the future by being in the here and now. No matter what obstacles you're facing in your professional and personal development, there is still a future to be had. Avoid being stuck in the past and letting those things that hinder you continue to do so. Be open to being in control of your own destiny by having a vision of the future and working toward it.

Interested in other effective mentoring strategies? Check out these articles:

5 Tips for Setting Mentoring Objectives

7 Tips for Positive Mentoring Outcomes

Mentoring Tips: Communicating Expectations

Mentoring Goals: Examples for Inspiration

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Tags: Mentoring Programs