Mentor Tip: Listening Skills

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Subject: Mentoring tips on listening skills

Careful "listening" is an important skill for a mentor. When you read a protégé's message, try to interpret both the meaning and the potential emotion attached to the content. Sometimes it is appropriate to let the protégé know that you are aware of strong emotions that he seems to be expressing.

Empathy lets the protégé know you not only understand the words used but also are sensitive to the feeling expressed. Statements like "You sound really discouraged" can let the protégé know that you care about more than the factual content of his message, that you care about how he feels.

When participants in our electronic community convey to one another that they hear both the content of what was said and the feelings that were expressed, close relationships with high levels of trust develop.

When communicating with protégés, it is important to

  • read through a protégé's entire message carefully and ask questions about anything you don't understand, before composing your reply.
  • be clear and specific in your questions, requests, and answers.
  • ask open-ended questions rather than questions that can be answered with a "yes" or "no."
  • understand that a protégé's view of the world may be different from your own and remember that everyone is entitled to his/her opinions and beliefs.
  • provide guidance that is supportive and positive.
  • avoid lecturing or passing judgment.
  • guide protégés through a problem-solving process rather than state a solution to a problem for them.