My Mentee Isn’t Talking, What Now? – Click to Read More

  • November 15th, 2017
  • Blog

Maybe it's your first visit with a new mentee, maybe it's your 50th and something is off today. Whatever the reason, sometimes your mentee may seem distant or uninterested. But what happens now? Is this what mentoring looks like? Surprisingly, yes, sometimes it does. Here are three things to keep in mind when your mentee isn't saying a word (and three ways to make progress.)

1) First impressions are hard

Between classes, homework, and even just waking up in the morning, school can be a hassle for anyone. Perhaps your mentee simply isn't having a good day today, or may even just be tired. After all, we've all had our groggy mornings, and our mentees are no different. Being silent doesn't always mean they don't care, just that they may need some "quiet time" today. This doesn't mean you need to remain silent however, and some days you may need to take the lead and hold the conversation. Keeping things light and digestible with some simple, no-brainer topics may be just what your mentee needs in the morning. One mentee related this to grownups needing their morning coffee, and we all know how chipper we are without our morning coffee right?

2) They may be shy

It's not easy putting yourself out there, especially when meeting someone for the first time. It can be easy to mistake shyness for disinterest. When your mentee isn't feeling chatty, try to make it worth their while and "talk for them." Keep the energy (and interest) up by asking about their interests, hobbies, or goals, and seeing if you can find common ground or something that piques their interest.

3) They're listening, even if it might not seem like it

It might feel disheartening to come see your mentee only to be met with silence, but don't take this to mean they are ignoring you. As mentors have found in the past, just because a mentee isn't talking, doesn't mean they aren't listening. Keep the atmosphere lively, and be ready for them to jump in when they are ready.


What Do I Do Now?

We understand you want to move past the silent treatment to show your mentee how much you care for them. But what can you do if you feel like you've hit a wall? iC.A.R.E. Director Jonathan Greer has a few pieces of advice for the mentor looking to get more dialogue out of their sessions:

Give it time, they may just need to become more comfortable with you.

Rome wasn't built in a day, and relationships are no different. Your mentee may be making the (from their perspective) best choice and taking a "wait-and-see" approach. This can leave you feeling like you aren't making progress, but that's not necessarily true! This can be a crucial time in your relational development in proving to your mentee you are authentic and here for them.

Use the materials provided in your mentor packet

Know you're never mentoring alone at iC.A.R.E. Your coordinators are here to provide you with support every step of the way, and that starts from day one with the materials in your mentor packet. Tip sheets like the “10 hints for handling sensitive situations” are an excellent resource for finding common ground, and handling topics you might be unfamiliar with. The Mentor and Mentee Expectation Worksheets are another great tool for establishing what you are both comfortable with discussing, and what's off the table.

Play a game, but have them choose

There's no ice breaker like a fun game. Gently try to get your mentee out of their shell with a friendly game. Instead of calling the shots (and letting them say nothing) give them a few options for games. The key is to have them choose. Give them a sense of ownership, and a reason to interact with you. Of course, games can be more than just board games. Mentors can play charades, pantomime, draw or color sheets, or even break out a puzzle. We have several coloring pages for elementary students, as well as some advanced versions for middle and high school students.

  1. Pete Kraemer left a comment on November 15, 2017 at 8:04 pm

    Good start out of the gate.

  2. Jonathan Greer left a comment on November 15, 2017 at 8:14 pm

    My mentee and I discussed this blog and i asked his opinion on if he thought the information was accurate and he shared “We’re all people and need our time but nothing against you, Mr. J”

    Good stuff team iC.A.R.E.!

  3. Pearlmarie Goddard left a comment on November 15, 2017 at 10:11 pm

    Ideas I have tried to start conversation: I keep notes on what we talked about last visit. I look over those ahead of time to see if there is something to continue. Her school had Harvest activities going on and I asked her to tell me about the things she did. This lead to what was going on at the school the current week.
    Also, she borrows a book each week from the school library. We talk about the book, also.
    Lastly, we decided that our theme for our visits would be “Kindness.” We write down a kind gesture each did the past week. Frankly, this has grown to more than just one thing each week.

    The flow of conversation comes from her concrete activities.
    Any other ideas from mentors would be appreciated.

  4. Scott Craig left a comment on November 16, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    I show up. Interested and engaged. I can tell when my mentee is having a bad day. I let him share with me however it comes out without harsh judgement or quick reaction. He has told me he has a lot of anger. Playing games, working on a jr circuit board, building a model. Activities seems to bring out the best in my mentee. Lastly, prayer. I pray for this kid and his situation. God can do more in his life in one minute than I could hope to do in 20 sessions.

  5. Vicki Raynor left a comment on November 16, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    Great comments and suggestions! I’m loving this! Thanks!

  6. Pealmarie Goddard left a comment on November 18, 2017 at 9:59 pm

    I used John’s idea and asked my mentee for suggestions on how to encourage a student to talk to the mentor. Her suggestion was to play the game “Apples to Apples.” I like her idea to focus on something other than “we have to talk.” At first, she could not imagine a student not wanting to talk to a mentor. She has said that she should have a lot of her classmates in with us.
    On another subject–Due to the fact she took the crafts on which we were working home and did not bring them back for our visit so we could complete them, I did not start a new craft with her. She appeared surprised that I did this even though we did discuss that it was her responsibility to bring back her craft satchel for each visit. She could keep or give her finished crafts away.
    What do you think–Should I have overlooked this and started a new project? She is a very capable student.

  7. Jonathan Greer left a comment on November 26, 2017 at 10:31 pm

    I like that you’re building responsibility and resiliency in your mentee by empowering her to bring her craft satchel for her visits with you. Sometimes she’ll forget and sometimes she’ll remember but i think the important thing is knowing that you “won’t break rank with her” even when she makes a mistake or doesn’t measure up to the standard set. We want our mentees to feel that someone is there for them and won’t abandon them when they make a mistake but will love them and continue to encourage and empower them to grow into their responsibility with grace and vigor. Keep up the great work and thank you for being a CHAMPION for youth!

  8. pearlmariegoddard left a comment on November 28, 2017 at 6:38 pm

    Thanks, Jonathon. I appreciate your feedback. I hope to see her Thursday and I will give you an update. She and I seem to always find something to talk about and we have a nice time.

  9. Eric Williams left a comment on November 29, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    Patience is (indeed) a virtue. Relax. Be authentic. Smile. Laugh. Share. Listen. Be consistent.

  10. Pearlmarie Goddard left a comment on December 8, 2017 at 11:52 am

    Well–There is an issue of bullying. The promoter is my elementary age mentee. From what the mentee tells me, she does not know why she reacts like she does but she has said repeatedly that she is “tired” on Mondays -which is when the last issue occurred. I meet with her on Thursdays.
    Key personnel and her parent(s) are aware and seem to communicate.
    Student does talk and talk to me, but I really think she does not know why she reacts in an unacceptable fashion. This child has many, many positive attributes that I observe:
    intelligent; clean; pleasant with me; articulate; accomplished in academics; appears happy; prideful.
    I have no control over her family. She speaks positively about her extended family.
    Suggestions for me when I am with her for such a short period of time?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.