How to Mentor with Empathy

Framework curated by Erin Wynn, Manager of Education and Evaluation at MindFrame Connect

Empathy is the ability to emotionally understand what other people feel, see things from their point of view, and imagine yourself in their place.  

Empathy is one of the five key components of emotional intelligence, and leading research indicates that empathy is a vital leadership competency and key performance indicator for leader and mentor effectiveness. Applying empathy to your mentorship practice will enhance the relationship and the results you and your mentee are able to attain during your work together. The best part? Empathy is a cognitive skill that continues to develop with practice.

Demonstrating Empathy with your Mentee

Be openly supportive.

Empathetic mentors are on the side of their mentees. They remind the mentee that they are capable of success and of navigating their problems.

Connect to your experience.

If you have been through something similar to the mentee’s experience, share that experience and how you navigated it. Your mentees will appreciate knowing that their mentor has been through it before, and came out the other side successfully.

Allow your mentee to explore the emotional aspects of problems.

Make space for them to talk about the mental or emotional difficulties connected to their issues. Name emotions when they come up in your conversations (i.e. “I can see you’re feeling frustrated”, “It sounds like you’re overwhelmed”, etc.).

Find the balance.

Empathy as a mentor does not mean you “wallow” with your mentee. Make space for emotion, acknowledge it, and build towards the next action your mentee can take to address the problem.

To assess your own empathy, we recommend this validated assessment from the Berkeley Greater Good Science Center:

Berkeley Empathy Assessment

Further Reading & Resources

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