Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A good Mentor shouldn't Juge

I would like to share my feelings through this small story without remorse because I think that I have learnt something out of it.
I wonder how many people can define precisely who is a mentor or give the real meaning of mentoring without getting confused with other concepts such as coaching and counseling. For my concern, it is not my first time to hear about this word but I should confess that I didn’t take time to try and understand what this concept is about before attending the workshop.
Last Saturday workshop on the topic ‘mentoring’ organized by the Wits Alumni and Wow 2007 was attended by entrepreneurs, professionals, academics and newly Wits’ graduated. Sitting randomly at tables, we all had to intervene in the discussion.
Among questions, the first was to define a mentor. As I said above, I did not check the real meaning of this word and had only a broadly understanding of what it means.
In my group after brainstorming ideas, we had a person who run his own business and introduced himself as a mentor. Obviously that sounded so fantastic to me as I thought that we will have more insights on our table. Then at the time to choose two key-words defining the best mentorship, the person took the lead and opted for growth and relationship.
For my part, I couldn’t understand why this ‘mentor’ prefers the word relationship to training for example. I felt obliged to ask why relation should come in second place and I did. Strangely, instead of giving me light on the concept, the person answered that it might be a problem of language. At that point I felt so misunderstood and afflicted. I had a feeling as if I was wrong by asking that question. For my concern, that was a judgment. I was judged for what I belong too and not for what I did. I took it so bad that I was disturb during all the session. I do think that because a person does use a generic word that do not mean that he’s lacking content. I felt as if I was denied of my right to growth and right to knowledge by a person who presented himself as a 'mentor'. I have learnt by this fact that the person wasn’t a good mentor because mentoring involves support to growth, building of self-esteem and openness for relationship.


Lesley said...

Hi Adam

I'm sorry you had an upsetting experience. But I am concerned that the interaction resulted in you "shutting down" because you felt personally hurt during the interaction.
I think the lesson is that many will say they are mentors, but that they actually aren't.
Another thing: when you do find your mentor, relate this experience. I hope that your mentor will listen carefully, empathise, suggest ways in which you could have discussed the matter further with the person at the table, and then help you to be more resilient if this ever happens again.
Resilience is my key word for you here, Adam.

Best, Lesley

Ijeoma Uche-Okeke said...

Adam, it is quite a pity that you were upset in this manner. Sometimes people are not patient enough to listen and explain things. I believe your question was perhaps a straight forward one. Either he misunderstood you or just didn't want to be bothered. I suppose in life we meet all sorts of people and are subjected to unpleasant encounters now and then. I think Lesley's advice is a good one to consider. There is no need to withdraw totally when you encounter such people.

Thomas Blaser said...

Ja, this person just leapt to judgement. She/he spoke based on ignorance and assumptions. This happens a lot. In your case, there are further dimensions, race I assume, language and perhaps others. It is easy to say for me, I was not concerned, but try to forget it and not take it personally. I mean such people exist and we encounter them from time to time. At the same time, there are so many great people out there, they truly compensate for an upleasant experience, I hope.

Susan Arthur said...

Hi Adam

I think when you find your mentor it's important to make sure you don't have any misunderstandings as a result of a language difficulty.

You're absolutely right, a mentor isn't there to judge you but to build your confidence and advise you. It would be great for mentors to learn about "non violent communication" (Berenice spoke a little bit about that when we did conflict resolution).

Valentin said...

I am sorry, Adam, that you went through this.
Sometimes people are ignorant to the fact that other people speak other languages and they judge you if English is not your home language.
Or they get angry at you if you are a little bit unclear or not precise and refuse to take into account that another language is actually your mother tongue.
I have experienced these situations myself here in South Africa being a foreigner.
However, I do not pay attention to that any more.
So do not be upset about that, just go on with your work!