Self-disclosure can be scary/risky for a mentor. Still, research found that self-disclosure is linked to more effective relationships. This video offers 5 steps to utilize when self-disclosing to a protégé for the first time.
- Self-disclosure, when I say the word, do you get interested, or does it scare you a little bit? For most people, it is a little bit of both. What is self-disclosure? It means making yourself vulnerable and known to others through revealing your experiences, feelings, and wants. Research shows that if self-disclosure is done correctly then it can improve work relationships, engagement, and even be a stress relief.
So, let's get started in applying five steps to using self-disclosure with your protege. First, face the fear. If the thought of self-disclosing makes you feel fearful you are not alone. Many of us worry we will be judged or that being vulnerable makes us weak, but being vulnerable with your protege makes your relationship real. Second, choose the right time, place, and context.
Communicate if you want the self-disclosure to be shared, or if it really is just for your protege's information. Third, use matching and reciprocity to know when it is the right time to self-disclose. So, let's say a protege starts to open up to you on something that has a small amount of risk. A way to use reciprocity is to share something personal about yourself and match the level of risk. So, for example, I recently had a doctoral student protege share with me that she was trying to decide the right time to get pregnant.
I matched her level of sharing by telling her that I had waited until I had tenure to get pregnant. I took the self-disclosure a step further when I shared that in retrospect though, I wish I had gotten started with my family earlier. This conversation brought our relationship to a whole new level. Fourth, be attentive to the verbal and nonverbal cues of your protege when you're self-disclosing. Start with a lower amount of risk and then work up to the really juicy stuff.
So, for example, I might share that I'm divorced and I share custody of my son with my ex-husband. When I reveal this, I might see something like this. (groans) This is an exaggeration, but watch for people leaning in or back, their facial expressions and their eye contact. These are the nonverbal cues that tell you to keep going or stop and check in and see if this is too much information. Fifth, be sure to avoid gratuitous self-disclosure and try to to tie your self-disclosure into work, or make a point with your protege and encourage them to do the same.
For example, in my book, Power of Mentoring, a protege disclosed to his mentor that he was gay and his mentor encouraged him to come out to the CEO, not in a gratuitous way, but because she knew IBM was looking to develop leadership among their GLBT employees. The protege shared something personal with his mentor that paid off for him professionally. I encourage you to think about the last time you self-disclosed at work.
Did you stop yourself from disclosing because of fear? Next time you meet with your protege, try the five strategies and I think you'll find that your relationship deepens in a positive way.
She also offers guidance on building trust and chemistry, providing feedback, and helping your protégé make critical career and work decisions and become resilient in the face of challenges. She also helps you address common obstacles, including a protégé that fails to meet expectations or violates trust, and explains how to gracefully exit the relationship.
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- Building a relationship with your protégé
- Talking and listening with impact
- Giving feedback
- Developing trust
- Setting goals
- Developing your protégé's skills
- Managing mentoring relationships
- Overcoming common obstacles
- How to make time for mentoring