We’ve all benefited from the great advice, support, and quite honestly kick in the pants from those mentors who have left an indelible mark on our lives. We appreciate their uncanny ability to know exactly when we need the most support or the unvarnished truth. These relationships are extremely impactful, and their influence is everlasting. I was reminded of this during a recent conversation with a mentor of mine, as he spoke with such deep gratitude and respect for the man he considered a mentor.
Hearing him speak so humbly about the imprint that this person made in his life reminded me that becoming a great mentor isn’t an accident. It necessitates that we become highly adept at being attuned to others in ways that develop both the influence and respect needed to bond with them on an exceptional level. This connection is reflective of the mentor’s own deeply understood values, beliefs, and revolutionary thinking. They have become skilled at what Daniel Goleman calls “the components of empathy”: cognitive empathy (awareness of how people feel), emotional empathy (sense of what someone is going through), and lastly empathic concern (being moved to help others when needed). It is this degree of empathy that provides the basis for assuaging frustrations, calming resistance, and guiding us to explore deeper levels within ourselves.
Here are 3 key ways that you can become more attuned to others and impact their lives in ways you never expected:
1. Do A Deep Dive Into Your Hopes, Thoughts, and Doubts
Connecting with our own deeply held values, beliefs, hopes and doubts in an honest and open way provides the clarity we need to understand what prompts us to act, and what drives what we aspire to become. Igniting that spark of self-awareness about our areas of strength and limitation creates the attunement that helps us see ourselves in a non-judgmental and realistic way. The natural sense of hope and optimism that comes from self-acceptance sets us on the path to better understanding the needs, aspirations, and limitations of others. It also connects us deeply with a purpose bigger than ourselves.
2. Think About Who Helped You Along the Way
Spend some time reflecting on the people who have helped you the most in your life—those of whom you would say, “Without them I wouldn’t be where I am today.” Make note of their names and some key moments that you remember. What was it they said or did that so impacted you? Think about how you felt and what you learned in those moments. Look at the list and see which of those you presently embody, and what is currently missing or needs enhancing in your skill set. Create a short list of attributes that you’d like to focus more on developing.
3. Become Energized and Test Drive New Behaviors
Leverage the work you’ve already done to connect with your sense of optimism and hope, and experiment with a few of the behaviors you want to be better at. Pick the most important one to you and give it a test drive. Remember that this is not the time to engage in a high stakes strategy or no-pain-no-gain type situation. Choose situations and people that you are currently comfortable with. Clue them in beforehand to what you’re trying to do, and let them know that you want their candid perspective about what went well, and what needs to happen in the future for you to really nail this. Their thoughts are a gift given with your well being and growth in mind, so all that is required is a thank you. Avoid the urge to agree when you like what you hear, or debate when you don’t. It isn’t about being perfect every time—it’s about discovering and learning what’s working and what isn’t.
As you embrace this journey and move toward becoming the mentors you admire, you’ll come to appreciate the gift they gave you even more. Make sure that you thank them before they are gone or, as my mentor did, honor them by sharing their impact and influence on you with others.