Mentoring in Time of Global Turmoil
17th January 2024 is International Mentoring Day – a day to celebrate the power and impact of mentoring in business, personal development, education and community enrichment. It would also have been Muhammad Ali’s 75th birthday. Muhammad Ali is seen by many as a worldwide mentor with a legacy of advancing diversity and inclusion with a drive for a better world.
Mentoring can enhance the lives of all people, and can be especially uplifting for individuals who are isolated, excluded or at the margins. On the world stage mentoring has contributed and will continue to contribute toward fostering development, peace and human rights. And yet we so very often we find ourselves facing global turmoil, whether it be wars, conflict, natural disasters or a pandemic. Such world events affect all of us, but can impact each of us in different ways. So how should we mentor our mentees during times of global turmoil?
Compassion – where the turmoil is taking place elsewhere in the world and it’s not front-and-centre of the mentor’s mind, they may forget that it could be impacting a mentee much more and the mentee may or may not be open about it or even aware of it. Where the mentee is not open about how they are feeling, as mentors, we should listen and look for ‘leakage’, ie. where the mentee says something or demonstrates non-verbal communication which betrays how they are feeling. If this happens the mentor should tread gently, demonstrating compassion, whilst asking open questions to help the mentee understand how they are feeling and the impact of those feelings.
Language sensitivity – it should go without saying, but it is useful to remind ourselves to be inclusive in communications and mindful of language that may alienate or negatively impact a mentee.
Help the mentee understand what they can control – unfortunately there is a brutal truth about life that we have no control over many things, and in particular world events. Where a mentee is paralysed by global turmoil, the mentor should help the mentee recognise what they can and can’t control, what they can influence and actions they can take. For example, as individuals we may not be able to stop a war, but we can support the people affected, by contributing to humanitarian charities.
Encourage self-care – where people are distracted by worries and stresses, they very often do not prioritise their self-care; and yet this is the most important time to focus on self-care. Exercising, eating healthily, participating in leisure activities and getting plenty of sleep are just a few key things we all need to do to take care of ourselves. In addition to this, mentors should encourage mentees to schedule time to engage in healthy stress relievers, whether yoga, spending time with friends, or simply making time for activities the mentee enjoys. Mindfulness is also a useful technique, where we focus on the present, using breathing exercises to relieve stress, make us calm and help us feel more centred.
Help the mentee identify healthy affirmations – scientists estimate people have about 70,000 thoughts per day. Many of those thoughts incite feelings of self-doubt, fear, and discouragement. Keeping a few positive healthy affirmations on hand can help combat negative thinking, examples include “I can handle this” or “I am stronger than I think”.
Recognise you are a mentor – you are not a therapist. Where you are really concerned about your mentee, you should encourage the mentee to seek professional support.
In the words of Muhammed Ali’s widow, Lonnie Ali, “Mentors are special gifts to the world. They encourage, motivate, reinforce, and guide others to reach their own individual greatness. After all, mentors have the power to transform lives.”