Empathize. Don’t criticize

Last week, we talked about the importance of making the most of our remaining time with our students. And, it starts with leaving our own distractions behind and being present and paying attention when we meet with them. When we do that, we communicate that we value and care for them more in that one hour than we do our own schedule or to-do list.

Tip #2: Empathize…don’t criticize

At the end of the school year, students will often talk about how busy they are and how they have so much to do. The reality is they are probably feeling overwhelmed with schoolwork, looking for a summer job, or what life will be like for them all summer at home (especially if it’s dysfunctional). As mentors, it’s important that we don’t respond to their feelings with criticism (or belittling). We may think that what they are overwhelmed with now is nothing compared to what they’ll face later in life. But, now is not the time to criticize their feelings. In many cases, the best thing we can do is sit down next to them, empathize with them, and ask them, “How can I help you right now?” You may find that by doing that you lift a weight off of your student’s shoulders just by expressing that you’re willing to help them and that you’re there for them.

-Jason Matthews, BTO Mentor Coach