How to Discuss Sensitive Topics with Your Mentor

Sensitive

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Whether it is with friends, family or colleagues, some topics are challenging to talk about, no matter how we put them. The fear of not knowing how to talk about certain sensitive topics is the very reason why many of us avoid them altogether.  However, a lack of communication may lead to misunderstandings and frustration, especially if these topics are integral to our work or personal growth.

The key is to be proactive. Mentorships are built on trust, so if you want things to change, you must first take action. Whether it’s asking your mentor how they think you should handle certain situations or discussing your concerns. Here are some tips on how to discuss sensitive topics with your mentor.

Don’t make assumptions!

Assuming your mentor is aware of the sensitive topic you want to discuss with them without telling them is a fast-track way to set yourself up for failure. When you do this, not only are you likely to come across as confrontational, but the chances are that they won’t have any idea what it is that’s causing you distress.

This is a common complaint from mentees who have assumed that their mentors were aware of the challenges they face without having told them. Don’t make this mistake! Give your mentor a heads up from the get-go.

Be Open To Different Opinions

What’s acceptable to one person isn’t always acceptable to another. The problem with this is that there is no right or wrong answer, but rather different opinions based on varying values and experiences. 

“My mentor doesn’t understand why I did what I did; they think of me as someone who is irresponsible.”

This statement can be translated as “my mentor has a different definition of what it means to be responsible”. By opening up lines of communication you can discuss your values and understand where you both stand. This can clear up any miscommunication and help both parties gain a better understanding of each other.

Educate Yourself

If the sensitive topic you are faced with is new to you, it can be helpful to educate yourself on what it is all about before approaching your mentor. Not only will this help prevent feelings of ignorance when speaking with them, but it can also increase your confidence in knowing that you have a good understanding of the issue at hand.

Listen

A common mistake made during a discussion of a sensitive topic is not listening to the person speaking. If you don’t listen, you have no chance of understanding their point of view on the issue and therefore you cannot respond accordingly.  Instead, focus on what is being said. This can be difficult if you feel defensive or anxious, but it’s important to remember that the only way the conversation will go anywhere is if your mentor feels they are being heard and understood.

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