Mentoring: A Dance of Give and Take

Mentoring: A Dance of Give and Take

All good mentors (giving, teaching) are continually open to being mentored (receiving, learning)”

-Mentoring: The Tao of Giving and Receiving

When a mentor is sought, or when an individual volunteers to become one, it is done under the common assumption that the individual has much to share in terms of life experiences, skill and guidance to the mentee. While that is indeed true what often happens from the outset of the mentor-mentee relationship, is that it becomes based upon a one dimensional construct of giving (the mentor) and receiving (the mentee) as opposed to both being open to share.

Ask yourself this. As a mentor are you just as intentional about wanting to learn and grow from your mentee as you are with wanting to teach them? When was the last time you gave them the space to take control of the relationship or, better yet, when was the last time you allowed them to serve as the mentor and you the mentee? For many mentors the answer is often few and far between. In most it is the mentor is the mentor and the mentee, the mentee. This construct of a mentoring relationship is akin to a dance between two people where only one is moving and the other standing still. Can one say we are truly dancing if only one person is moving?

Any great dance is when both individuals are moving in synch and concert with each other. Mentoring, when applied properly, is that dance. One in harmony and concert: a rhythmic dance of give and take between both individuals where it is intentional that both learn and teach each other, taking turns between being the mentor and the mentee.

In the book Mentoring: The Tao of Giving and Receiving this is called Wu Dao: The Dancing Wu Ji Mentors. Authors Huang and Lynch state the following: “Thus, the crux of the Tao mentoring process, as we see it, is the Wu Dao Dance between mentor and mentoree, where each is involved in giving and receiving.”  


When you develop a mentoring relationship that is based upon both giving and receiving both the mentor and the mentee are not only in constant harmony but both create a circle of openness that allows each other to work together in defining the path, direction and growth of the mentee. That is to say the mentoring relationship becomes collaborative. 

So the next time you are with your mentee consider giving them the space to set the path and direction of the events of the day. Challenge them to guide and create, speak while you listen, teach while you learn. Doing so empowers not only the mentee but yourself as the mentor.

L-Mani S. Viney

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