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You should start with easy, friendly questions and work your way up to more difficult or sensitive questions. It’s okay for there to be moments of silence or emotion. A person’s ministry is important, and this is natural.
Accept their initial reticence to share a story as part of the process. But, asking follow-up questions will help you get more information. You can also open up a little yourself to establish rapport. Making a connection with your mentee via a common piece of history (e.g., the same alma mater), similar like or dislike, or even a person you both know can be a valuable way to establish rapport. Don’t spend a lot of time sharing about yourself, though.
First of all, know that it is okay to let there be “spaces in your togetherness.” If you stop talking, even a five second pause can feel endless – but those pools of silence will many times eventually reveal gems of information. Give your mentee time to think, to reflect, and to figure out how to say what they want. Get comfortable with silence.
However, if the silence becomes prolonged, “triggers” can be very important. It isn’t enough for you to say, “Tell me about your life.” Triggers can be many things – questions, photographs, scripture readings, music. Reading an evocative or thought-provoking story together can be an extremely effective trigger. These are the types of things that will spark a lot of conversation.
You can open up a little yourself to establish rapport. Making a connection with your mentee via a common piece of history (e.g., the same alma mater), similar like or dislike, or even a person you both know can be a valuable way to establish rapport. Don’t spend an excessive amount of time sharing about yourself, though.
You can place the focus back on the mentee by using some “closed” questions (which prompt a respondent to give only a “yes” or “no” answer), but after that, most should be “open” questions like: “Tell me about…”; “Describe…”; “What was it like when…?”; “In what ways…?”; “Why…?”; and “How…?” For example, if the mentee says “It was a rewarding experience,” find out why it was rewarding. If they say they encountered a poor person who was a “fantastic” man and could “really teach” us a lot, it would help to know why he was “fantastic” and what this means. Other tips: 1) If you have a question, make it short. You won’t learn much about someone if you’re taking up three-quarters of the time by asking long-winded questions. 2) Ask and then listen. Don’t be so focused on getting to Question #3 on your list, that you neglect to listen to the person’s answer to Question #2.
First, make sure you have tried your best to establish some sort of rapport. Have several topics available for small talk when you begin the session. Knowing a bit about the mentee’s background can help you develop subjects. Or perhaps, it’s something that you have in common with the person. It’s about creating a friendly atmosphere.
However, if the relationship is really not working (after you have exhausted your own efforts), listen to your instincts. Don’t waste your time or the mentee’s by stretching the meeting out. If there’s no match, no amount of conversation is going to change that. Don’t be afraid to end your mentoring relationship if your mentee’s needs change dramatically, or if you find you are ill-matched. If necessary, the Famvin team can arrange a new mentor for your mentee. Contact a member of the Famvin team (Fr. Bruce, Fr. John) so that we can help resolve the matter or match you with another mentee. Keep the door open for your mentee to return in the future. If at all possible, try not to end the relationship on bad terms.
Listen carefully to their responses. Try to ask a good mix of questions — those that give insight into behavior, elicit opinion, tell about experiences in ministry, and reveal truths. To be sure you know what the mentee is saying, never fake that you understand something. If you don’t know what the person is taking about, ask them to explain it. Say: “Could you explain that in a different way, I’m not sure I understand?”
Mentors are not professional counselors and therefore should never exceed their authority. The scope of the mentor/mentee relationship is informal. Any mentee problems that go beyond the scope of the mentor’s expertise, or involve risks to the safety or well being of the mentee or others, must be referred to a professional.
You are there to help the mentee by relating our Vincentian charism and the lessons of Holy Scripture to their experiences of ministry- not necessarily to solve individual problems they may be having.
Try to avoid becoming engrossed in any specific problem, but encourage the mentee to analyze the situation on their own by asking things like: “What result do you want to achieve that would be the ‘best case scenario’?” “What could you do that could lead to this?” or “What would [Vincent, Louise, Elizabeth, Frederic] have done in a similar situation?”
A single session shouldn’t last more than about an hour. People do best when they’re not tired. You can always do another session. This actually allows you to think about answers, and come up with other questions based on the answers and things that interest you both.
There will be a time when the relationship comes to its natural end. Keep in mind that it is normal for a mentoring partnership to end. Common reasons a mentoring partnership end may include the following:
- The mentee has achieved his/her objectives.
- Either partner may find the partnership is no longer beneficial. If this
occurs, reflection and analysis on the part of both parties needs to be
employed to discover why the partnership ended.
In many cases an informal relationship can continue after the partnership has ended. Before ending the process, say something like: “Thank you for taking the time to share with me. We’ve covered quite a bit. Is there anything that we didn’t get time to chat about?” The key words are “we’ve” and “we”. Not “I” and “I” as in “I don’t know what else I should ask you.” It’s an awkward ending and could be indicating your lack of preparation. Don’t forget to thank the person you’ve mentored. They’ve been generous with their time and perhaps shared personal information. Let them know you value what they’ve shared.
See the instructions for How To Start a Video Chat on the Communication Tools page. Prior to a Video Chat, you may want to contact your mentee by another means (email, phone) in order to set up an exact time so that they will be prepared to meet with you.
Issues of a confidential nature should NOT be addressed in this online method. Never discuss confidential information in the mentors’ blog, email or other means that could be seen by others. Even password-protected areas of the web site are not 100% secure, so you should not assume that anything you discuss could not be accessed by others, whether accidentally or intentionally.
You could avail yourself of the online resources available from Famvin (VinFormation, FamVin and Vincentian Wiki)– see the answer to the question below for details. If you are still stuck, you could ask a peer for advice or contact one of the Famvin team (Fr. Bruce, Fr. John) for assistance.
To search across all FamVin sites (News, Reference, and Formation sites): Enter text in the search box found on upper right area of the home page of either the News site or this site. This will search across all three sites plus CMGlobal.org for whatever word or phrase you enter.
Searching VinFormation – go to the Find page.
This page contains Vincentian prayer resources. Or, click here for Search Results for the word “prayer” across all the FamVin sites.
For Questions About ooVoo (Video Chat Software)
We recommend you go straight to the source: ooVoo Frequently Asked Questions