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6 guaranteed ways to build trust quickly as a mentor
Based on my experience mentoring hundreds of people
One thing you might not know about me is that since 2021 I conducted over 300 mentorship sessions with people from all over the world via the Plato platform.
This year, Plato is bringing back the in-person Plato Elevate - “The no BS engineering leadership conference”, and I was invited as a speaker!
My topic is …drumroll … “How to build an anti-burnout tech organization”.
To attend, Plato has kindly given me a 40% code for any Caring Techie reader to use: ELEVATE2023-IRINA or click 👇
Now onto today’s article!
Many people try becoming mentors, only to give up shortly because their mentees firmly resist any suggestion for change. Does that sound familiar?
What can be a wonderful experience—when done right—can quickly become a very frustrating one if a solid foundation of trust is lacking.
In today’s article, I will present you with 6 ways to build trust with any mentee. I’ve applied these techniques with hundreds of mentees around the world and I can confidently say: they work!
Let’s dive in!
Why trust is paramount
Just like coaches or therapists, mentors are in the business of helping people. We became mentors because fundamentally we want to help.
To effectively help someone, or better said, for the person to let us help them, they need to trust us. They need to have an unshakeable belief that we understand them, we’re there for them, we want what’s best for them and we know what we’re talking about.
Trust is the foundation of any helping relationship.
Building trust happens through a series of interactions from big to really tiny, over time. There is no way to shortcut this. You can, however, accelerate trust building by following these tips:
1. Make your mentee feel heard and seen
Every human has a deep need to feel understood for who they are and everybody wants to feel like they matter.
In last week’s article, we talked about what making people feel heard and seen actually means and how to achieve it.
If you haven’t read the article, don’t worry. Here is what you need to know: focus on understanding your mentees, letting them do most of the speaking, empathizing, and validating them. Stay away from offering a solution right away.
A mentoring relationship is a perfect opportunity to make people feel heard and seen. It’s natural to trust people who make us feel like they understand us.
Finding your own relatable experiences is also very useful. People intuitively trust people who are similar to themselves.
My goal after each session is to have people say “Oh yeah, Irina really gets me”. This will happen to you as well if you follow the advice in this article.
2. Unconditional Positive Regard
A few years ago I discovered UPR in the context of humanistic psychology and wrote about it in the context of coaching relationships.
In a nutshell, unconditional positive regard is an attitude that is:
Based on the belief that the other person can change (growth mindset)
Based on solid research, the UPR mindset has been proven to build trust and is foundational to any helping relationship. UPR applies very much to mentoring too.
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3. Pay attention to your language
Mentees are in a vulnerable position sharing sometimes perhaps things they’re not proud of or mistakes they made. The last thing they need is to be criticized.
When it comes to trust, language plays a bigger part than we think. Our choice of words can build trust, and can also break trust.
Stay away from trust-breaking language:
judgments: good / bad / wrong
dismissive or final words: not a big deal / irrelevant
assuming anything is obvious
don’t should people
Instead, keep a very open and positive language and ask lots of questions.
4. Make people feel like you’re invested in their success
When you’re invested, you want your mentee to succeed just as much as them.
Express that! Tell them you are their partner in this! It might seem obvious, but showing you want them to win goes a long way.
Think of whatever problem they bring to you as being your own. Think of how you’d solve it and then provide guidance to your mentee to figure it out on their own.
A good mentor is like a compass. They guide you and empower you during your journey, but allow you to walk your own path. — Unknown
Look for ways to help them level up professionally. You build trust by getting your mentees to see new potential in themselves they otherwise may not have.
Lastly, celebrate their wins and celebrate their growth!
5. Be authentic
Authenticity is a vital factor in trust. When people sense that you’re withholding or concealing something, they’re less willing to make themselves vulnerable and let you help them.
When you are authentic, people are more likely to trust you because they know you have no intention to manipulate them or not have their best interest at heart.
To build a trusting relationship with your mentees, it is important to show them you’re also a human. Don’t be afraid to share your mistakes, and lessons, even if they reveal insecurities.
6. Stay consistent
Acting in a consistent way means aligning our words with our actions and keeping our commitments. That’s what makes us trustworthy people.
To build trust with mentees showing up every time, not canceling last minute, following up, and following through with things discussed in previous sessions should be non-negotiables.
Lastly, steps 1-5 need to be applied again and again with consistency.
If done right, seeing the fruits of your labor as a mentor can be one of the most rewarding experiences. But you can’t do it without a solid foundation of trust.
To build trust with people, follow these steps:
making people feel heard and seen
holding them in unconditional positive regard
be invested in their success
pay attention to your language
These are, from my experience, some of the best ways to build trust.
Now passing the microphone over to you. Have you used any of these techniques? What was your experience? Are there any other methods you’d recommend to help build trust?
Until next time,
Your Caring Techie
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