Daniel J. Levinson describes the mentoring relationship as "one of the most complex and developmentally important" in a person's life. The mentor will act as teacher, sponsor, guide, exemplar, counselor, moral support, but most important will "assist and facilitate the realization of the dream." At the same time it is "a dynamic, reciprocal relationship in a work environment between an advanced career incumbent and a beginner aimed at promoting the development of both", as noted by Charles C. Healy and Alice J. Welchert in 1990.
Communication is one of the key factors that determine the success of a mentoring relationship, and conflicts often result from misunderstandings regarding differences in communication styles. The following checklist may help you to evaluate whether you communicate effectively and indentify areas for improvement.
- listen actively?
- suspend judgment when troubled by another's intent or actions?
- use communication skills to fill in missing information?
- deal with the "little issues" before they become big ones?
- recognize that conflicts often result from misunderstandings regarding differences in communication styles?
- pay attention to how you come across?
- identify goals and current reality?
- build trust?
- encourage communication?
- understand and clarify?
- apply a sense of humor?
- understand feelings as well as content?
- gain trust and credibility?
- show empathy?
- develop rapport?
- discern what the speaker needs and wants?
If you find yourself dealing with an unusually challenging relationship with a mentee, you may use the Decision Tree for guidance to your thinking as you try to determine what kind of problem you are facing and how best to approach it, including when to consult with the Faculty & Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) or the Work-Life Resource Center.