We run online training for all of our new Mentors to help them best understand the way that they might be able to help someone who is reaching out. One of our recent mentors, Mathew, shared with us what he learnt during the mentor training and how he is going to use that to be the best mentor possible.
After signing up at Fair Day this year with my mate Angus I was really excited to get on board with Start Out. Shortly after I signed up, I started to get a bit nervous about the role of mentor. My own anxiety kicked in slightly and I started to ask myself, why would I be a good mentor, what have I got to tell people? I wanted to make a difference in the world and I wanted to help people who were going through a hard time either coming out, identifying where they would fit in the world or just scaring themselves out of owning their sexuality, all things I had gone through.
The training helped to really ground my thinking in a number of ways. It introduced me to really great people across the country who were just as passionate about helping people as I was. The training modules let us break out into small virtual groups so we could have a chat with the other mentors, it really meant that we could put a personal element to each other. We weren’t just another face on a screen (as much of our social interaction in 2020 has been).
I got to learn from people. Hearing other people’s stories and experiences really helps you to better understand your own story but also how to relate to other’s. At 36 years old I was starting to worry how relevant I would be to someone, say, in their early 20s. I was able to better understand that being a good mentor is not what you teach people; being a good mentor is more about the space you give someone for them to teach themselves.
I got to engage with the Start Out crew to understand how I can help. And the answer was really clear, it was simply by listening to someone. Just taking the time to stop and listen to what someone has to say and give them the space and time to say out loud the thoughts that are inside their head.
We have all been in that place where our heads are swirling with thoughts and we know that we need to make a decision of some kind. It may be a decision to do something or it may equally be a decision not to. Often we just need a time and place to get those thoughts out of our heads. Once the thoughts are out of our heads it’s so much easier to hold the problem in our hands and observe it, identify it and recognise how it may be fixed. Being a good mentor is helping to guide someone through that process.
I’m now really excited about my role and working with Start Out. The training really helped to make sense of my role as a mentor. And that’s to listen.