For this exercise, we need you to trust us!
Think of a secret you’ve never told anyone before. Something you really don’t want anyone to find out about you. If you think you don’t have any secrets, dig deep!
Now, write it out in an email and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Yes, you can trust us!
Now, how do you feel? Did you follow the instructions? Did you chicken out? Why? What have you learned about trust from this?
The word ‘trust’ is such an easy one to say, but its meaning, impact and development in our lives could take us a lifetime to understand. In fact, it’s only through our lifelong relationships that we fully experience and explore this concept. Factors such as consistency, trustworthiness, reliability, openness and previous relationships all play into the recipe of how we trust and open ourselves up to other people.
One thing that we know for sure is that trust is not something that happens quickly. We don’t put our weaknesses out there on the first date. No, it takes at least a few bottles of wine or brandy and coke and maybe even a ring or two before we start to feel we can be more ourselves with another person!
Harriet Lerner, in her book ‘The Dance of Intimacy,’ defines intimacy as being able to be fully ourselves with the other person in the relationship, and allowing that person to be fully themselves around us. On the other side of the scale in relationships, LifeXchange proposes the definition for a platonic relationship as one where both parties are not able to be themselves at all around each other. For example, a school principal and a student on a Monday morning look and behave very differently around each other than they do on the weekend before! All the relationships that we have with other people can be placed somewhere on the continuum between these two extremes.
In mentoring, whilst we are not aiming for the same level of intimacy as a marriage relationship, we do want to move from a platonic start down the continuum to some foundation of trust. Therefore, we are on a journey of being able to allow our mentee to be more of their ‘weekend self’ around us, AND us becoming more of our ‘weekend self’ around them! When this happens, neither side experiences judgment on their actions: our mentees will openly share what is really going on in their lives, and will respectfully listen to the real life wisdom that we can speak into their lives.
And how do we move down the continuum? Mentoring research has some clues for us. There are basically four elements that all research agrees that lead to successful mentoring: Duration, Frequency, Consistency and Emotional Connection. In other words, if a mentor follows through on the full length of their commitment to their mentee, and meets with their mentee as much as possible during that time, and presents a consistent and stable presence in their mentee’s life, and there is a relationship of care built between them and their mentee, the mentoring relationship is guaranteed to be successful.