The Art of Connection: Building Strong Relationships Through Authentic Engagement

When you’re trying to forge meaningful connections with others, you have to be willing to be your most authentic self. That means engaging with a thoughtful sense of purpose and openness. And, in mentor-mentee relationships, you’ll have to take the lead.

Learn the tools to build strong relationships through connection opportunities!

Be Vulnerable and Responsive

One of the best ways to build a strong relationship is by showing vulnerability. Even if you are in a mentor-mentee relationship, it’s okay to be human. In fact, a nervous mentee might feel more inclined to open up if they see that their mentor can.

Talk about situations where you’ve missed the mark or had to rebound from a setback. You don’t have to disclose all of the details, but paint enough of a picture to connect with the other person. 

Be a good listener, too. You don’t want a relationship to be one-sided. While you may need to initiate conversations a lot, ask questions to jumpstart the other person’s answers. 

Lend a sympathetic ear, and let the other person know that what they are sharing is confidential. Especially in relationships where an adult is working with a student, the student needs to feel trust. You may need to verbalize your support more actively to see continued growth in your relationship.

Give Your Relationship Structure

Even though organic interactions can yield a strong sense of engagement, many relationships benefit from structure. Know the limits of how far you are willing to be involved in your role. And know what you will and will not share with the other person. 

In a mentor-mentee relationship, you may want the relationship to focus on goal setting and personal development. But you may not want to delve into the depths of a mentee’s personal life. Create ground rules to keep conversations focused, and use talking points to avoid scenarios where conversations veer off track.

As a simple way to establish structure, consider setting regular recurring meeting times. For instance, you might meet with a student mentee every other Wednesday right after school. And stick with the allotted time frame, such as an hour, to provide a clear beginning and ending. 

Build Strong Relationships Through Connection Opportunities

Strong relationships don’t develop overnight. The require an investment from both parties, and a desire to make progress. Sometimes mixing up the formula can make taking those next steps more successful.

Beyond meeting after school or for coffee, seek other settings to nurture a relationship. Attend a conference together or visit a museum. 

Or visit a space that might inspire the other person if you’re serving as a mentor.  You never know what experience will help stir a new observation or conversation. 

We help young people nurture strong connections with mentors and community members through our efforts at OhanaHC. If you want to contribute to this mission, consider serving as a mentor or volunteer. Please fill out the contact form on our website or email us at to learn more!

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Ohana of Howard County, Inc. is following the CDC, Maryland, and Howard County recommendations to ensure the safety of students, volunteers, and staff. At this time, we will be moving to in-person programming and masks are optional. When appropriate, we will provide hybrid or virtual options for engagement.

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