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How to Be a Good Listener

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Listening is key to most relationships. We all know how it feels when someone pretends to listen, but does not give us their full attention. Mentoring requires strong listening skills.
A good listener hears not only what’s said, but also what’s left unsaid. 

Here are some tips to become a better listener -

1. Be present

First, put your phone on silent and keep it aside. Face your body towards the other person, and if culturally appropriate, make eye contact. Show you are interested. Check your posture–are you relaxed and open? Give your full attention.

2. Stop talking and just listen

So often we do not give other people the space to talk. We interrupt them, finish their sentences, or talk over them. This shuts the other person down. Be silent. Give non-verbal cues showing you are listening. Allow for pauses so your mentoring partner can think more deeply.

3. Remove distractions

If you are meeting virtually, set your cameras in a way that you can make eye contact. Remove distractions. Avoid distracting behaviors such as doodling, checking your phone and yawning. Offer your undivided attention. 

4. Be non-judgmental

Try to remove your prejudices and judgments from your interaction. Keep an open mind and fully listen. Show empathy. Try to step into your partner’s shoes and understand their perspective. 

5. Pay attention to non-verbal communication

Watch your partner and notice their gestures, expressions and body language. Are you sensing how they are feeling? What are they saying through their body language?

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What to Do in a Mentoring Meeting as a Mentor

Having a structure can help you and your mentee make your time more productive.
2 mins

Having a structure can help you and your mentee make your time more productive. The format can be adapted to suit your requirements so there’s a natural flow. 

1. Feedback And Update 

Remind your mentee about confidentiality as well as any ground rules. 

Talk to your mentee about:

  • Feedback on their progress on the action plan. 
  • An update on what has happened in their work or personal life since you last met. 
  • Progress on what you committed to do since the last meeting.

2. Discussion

This is where you will spend the bulk of your time. Ask your mentee to go through the discussion points on their agenda, and identify the issues they want to discuss.

Example of prompting questions:

“What would be most useful for you to discuss today?”

“What would you like this session to focus on?” 

Ask questions to clarify the issues your mentee has presented; be sure you fully understand before moving on.

Guide your mentee to think about their issue more thoroughly. Ask open-ended questions to encourage them to think more deeply.

Example of prompting questions:

“What options have you considered?”

“What do you see as the pros and cons of each?”

You can then share some of your experiences and advice, if it's requested.

3. Close

Action Plan - Ask your mentee to put together an action plan of what they would like to work on before the next meeting. If needed, help them to think through options. Make a note of anything you could provide, such as an article or video, to help them.  Make sure you send them to your mentee.

Discuss and schedule your next meeting. Set up a recurring meeting if you mutually agree on a time that works for both of you. Finally, sincerely thank your mentee for their hard work.