The Mentoring Elephant in the Room: What If Mentoring Doesn’t Work
Mentoring, like garlic and hang-gliding, is not for everyone.
Those of us who work in a hands-on mentoring-based environment eventually figure this out, whether anyone thinks to tell us or not.
We also eventually figure out that it may not actually be mentoring itself which isn’t working, but instead the specific mentor-mentee match that has no “chemistry,” the format or frequency in which the mentoring communications do or don’t occur, or other equally compelling factors that can give the appearance that mentoring as a whole doesn’t work.
But it is rare that an entire discipline itself is broken, so instead we must look to a frank and open discussion of today’s “elephant in the room” question, “What if mentoring doesn’t work?”
The answer, at least from my personal experience working with mentoring in the context of MentorCONNECT, is “If mentoring doesn’t work for whatever reason, then by all means try something else.”
When I was little, I thought being a ballerina was the most glamorous pursuit ever. I wanted to take ballet so badly, so my accommodating mother found a class and enrolled me. I loved the pink tutu and the soft pale pink elasticized slippers. I loved the tights and the leotard and the sleek bun and how I felt when I was all rigged up like a “real” ballerina.
I loved everything except the part where I had to dance. Add to that a stage and a set of spotlights and I discovered the perfect recipe for a near-miss potty emergency on stage.
Ballet was not for me – at least not the performance part. I have remained very good at watching ballet over the years, however, and appreciating those who give their lives over to perfecting the art of this lovely dance.
In the same way, mentoring will not work for everybody. Not every mentor, however willing and enthusiastic, is cut out to mentor others. Not every mentee, however eager and hopeful, can take in information well in that particular way.
Mentoring is one of a growing number of recovery support options that are arising to assist those who are recovering from eating disorders.
And like ballet or garlic or hang-gliding, some of us will make great active participants, while for others it will simply be a rewarding spectator sport.
Today’s Takeaway: The important thing in making the recovery journey is to give each viable option for receiving support its chance to stand or fall on its own merits. If we try it and it doesn’t work, we can simply cross it off our list and keep going. The alternative – refusing to try and always wondering – is an unnecessary burden in light of the significant remaining balance of the journey yet ahead. Here, consider where you may need to simply give yourself a chance to explore your options and, as is often said in Twelve Step communities, keepwhat works and discarding the rest.
Cutts, S. (2013). The Mentoring Elephant in the Room: What If Mentoring Doesn’t Work. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 24, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/mentoring-recovery/2011/08/the-mentoring-elephant-in-the-room-what-if-mentoring-doesnt-work/