Seek to Understand,
A message that rings of a sound thought.
As a pup/Handler, regardless if we are rolling around on the mats or holding a puppy by the leash, we mentally form opinions based on our own experiences. Instinctively, we begin to gather information around us and create a conclusion built on that premise.
Is that a bad thing? Is that a good thing?
Rather than focus if it’s bad or good, right or wrong, think about it more of an opportunity to expands one’s objective way of thinking through verbal subjective conversation with another.
Imagine two Handlers hanging out along the corner of the mat floor, watching the other puppies play. Now there is one puppy that catches their eyes, who snatches a toy from one of the other Handler’s hand and proceeds to drag it to the middle of the mosh floor, only to start mutilating the toy, tearing it into a million pieces. The two Handlers watched the exact event transpire at the same time, and visually there was no difference on what they saw the puppy do to the toy. One Handler thinks the puppy was purposely being bad and trying to actively upset and get back at the Handler he took the toy from. The other Handler, at the same time, is thinking that the puppy is just being super playful and bratty, doing what puppies do and that the Handler who got the toy taken from him is probably thinking to himself “oh you silly puppy”. The two Handlers, at different times, then proceed to converse with the puppy’s Handler on the subject at hand.
Now who knows what collective experiences lead either Handler to believe in what they saw, but what rings true is that unless they work hard to understand the other Handler’s perspective and what transpired, they will form completely different viewpoints and conclusions because they are understanding autobiographically. Thus, in turn, their words and actions from that point and on will not only be completely different, but can have an overall positive or adverse effect and impact on the parties involved.
So again why is it important to seek to understand and how does that apply to mentorship?
Seeking to understand is simply taking the time to have a conversation with another and gain their perspective on a situation, act or overall viewpoint. By just having that conversation, you gain a clearer perspective, furthering your own personal perspective while at the same time, opening yourself up to other perspectives and ways of viewing things. Alternatively, you try understanding someone else by relating to their perspective to your own experiences or selective listening, hearing what you want to hear. By doing so, you are seeing the other person as if they were you, which they are not.
Now apply this when in a mentorship role. If you mentor a pup/Handler without seeking to understand, you only derive the needs, wants, viewpoints, and perspectives of your mentoree by only your personal experiences and relating them as if they are you, and you alone. As a mentor, it is your responsibility to seek to understand and practice empathic listening. By doing so, your intentions manifest to a type of communication centered around understanding what your mentoree is trying to communicate and convey. If you come from that very foundation of understanding, you will be able to actively listen and understand the needs and wants of your pup/Handler, build on your own personal experiences and gain a stronger, more objective outlook overall. Thus, you as a mentor will properly understand the full situation, but also be fully equipped to provide the most appropriate, healthy course of action and needs for your mentoree.
As a mentor and a member of the community, we owe it to ourselves and our mentoree to seek to understand. Have those conversations, practice empathic listening, and broaden your perspectives. This will not only help you grow, but your pup/Handler that you are mentoring, while also continually facilitating their positive mental health, personal growth, and safe space.