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Managing Needs Versus Demands in Mentoring

I read an interesting article the other day that supposedly had nothing to do with mentoring.

Only to me, it did.

This particular post was about marketing to customers, and how important it is in the making of happy customers to be able to tell the difference between what we think the customer needs versus what the customer is demanding.

Upon first read, I found myself scratching my head and thinking, “huh?”

But then, as I read through it again and tried to apply it to what I have learned as first a mentee, and later a mentor as well, it began to click.

As I share in my book, Beating Ana, over the years mentees have often written to me, begging to know the “secret” for achieving recovery.

When told the “secret” involves lots of patience, lots of perseverance, and lots of ongoing support, some mentees react in relief – they now realize they haven’t been doing anything “wrong.” Recovery really is supposed to feel this hard, take this long, require this much of body/mind/heart/soul to accomplish.

Oh good.

Other mentees react in disbelief – they retreat into silence, attempt to argue semantics, or resume participation in pro-Ed communities, making light of their disease and treating it like it is not so much of a problem as they at first may have believed, and why is everyone else making such a big deal about it?

Oh darn.

The needs of these two groups of mentees are the same. They both NEED recovery.

But the demands of these two groups of mentees are very different.

One group demands recovery – no matter what the price, time commitment, level of difficulty.

The other group demands a short-cut, an option to keep their thin dreams and their recovery dreams too, or at the very least a get-out-of-the-hard-work-of-being-human hall pass.

Learning to distinguish between needs and demands is key, this marketer writes. I would assert that developing this skill is equally valuable in a mentoring setting – especially when there is a life-or-death decision on the line.

The”Stages of Change” Model (Prochaska and DiClemente) is another means by which we can work with our mentees to assess “needs” versus “demands”.

The five stages are as follows:

  • Precontemplation
  • Contemplation
  • Determination/preparation
  • Action
  • Maintenance
  • Relapse (which I often like to re-label as “further growth”)

Our mentees may not be able to self-assess whether their needs and demands are matching up from the inside looking out.

But from the outside looking in, we can work with our mentees to help them identify where they are now, where they hope to be, and what if anything needs to change in mindset and approach before we can work together to support them in achieving their recovery goals.

Managing Needs Versus Demands in Mentoring

Shannon Cutts

Parrot, tortoise & box turtle mama. Writer. Author. Mentor. Champion of all people (and things) recovered and recovering.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2010). Managing Needs Versus Demands in Mentoring. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 5, 2020, from


Last updated: 14 Oct 2010
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