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Mentoring Skills: Social Connections

In this issue of Mentor Monthly we will take a look at #3 in the list of the three risk factors that we have focused on over the years. Social Connections are a critical part of rebuilding a life in the community.

Social Connections:

Many of our participants in reentry court face the challenge of leaving one set of social connections and establishing a new set. The reality is that most leave their past set of connections (for the most part) but never really establish anything new. Here are some of the challenges that we face when trying to move our mentees in this direction.

  • Many of my mentees have had trust issues. They have learned this as a kind of default survival mode. You will have to be patient and gradually earn trust. This means do what you say you’re going to do. Your mentee will hold you to a higher standard than they have for themselves – that’s just how it works.

  • The legit world is a pretty scary place to be the new guy. It’s easier to just keep your head down and keep to yourself. Start with something simple where your mentee can meet someone new that’s not in their circle. Meeting at a coffee shop can be something very different and out of the box, I like doing it because there’s other people there and it’s pretty laid back.

  • Communicate the value of social capital. Building a new network will take skill, or what we call “people skills” so practice is necessary. This may also pave the way to discuss register of language, what we say and how we say it depending on the situation. More on this later.

  • More focus on “engaging” activities vs. “abstaining” activities. Whenever we flee from something we need to be running towards something else. Your role is to help identify things to run to and engage in. The system likes to focus on the abstaining part but has very little input on the engagement part. This is where we can shine and introduce our mentees to good things that we generally take for granted.

Again, we are talking about relationships. It seems that everything in life is some sort of relationship and this is an area where most of our people struggle. A mentor is also a model – you are modeling what these relationships look like when building social capital. Happy mentoring!

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