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The Mentor’s Field Guide: Question 23


Trust takes time to develop, with some young people requiring more time that others, depending especially on their prior experiences with adult. People often talk about “creating” trust as though it were something we conjure up at will. In reality, trust emerges slowly and tentatively from experiences that create the conditions for it. Such conditions include the following:


  • Being reliable, consistent, patient, and persistent with your mentee.
  • Encouraging your mentee to take the lead in deciding what you will do together.
  • Telling your mentee what positive qualities or behaviors you see in her or him.
  • Having fun together and creating shared memories.
  • Listening to cultivate and communicate understanding rather than giving advice.
  • Keeping your conversations with your mentee private; not telling parents or teachers the details of your conversations.
  • Letting your mentee know how much you like and believe in her or him.
  • Avoiding pushing your mentee to achieve goals you have set.
  • Being trustworthy yourself: keeping your word, respecting your mentee’s privacy, and keeping what your mentee tells you confidential unless there is a compelling reason to involve someone else.


It can be tempting to equate the level of trust with the level of communication. But this can be misleading because some mentees are never going to be great “talkers”. What is more important is whether you feel like a friendship is developing; if it is, trust is developing. As in any relationship, trust evolves slowly through the simple process of being together on a regular basis and liking the experience. We rarely take genuine pleasure in the company of people we don’t trust.


Copyright 2002 by Search Institute. From The Mentor’s Field Guide: Answers You Need to Help Kids Succeed by Gail Manza and Susan K. Patrick. Copyright 2012 Search Institute, Minnepolis, MN; 877-240-7251 ext. 1; All rights reserved.