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Study: Your mentor wants you to shut up and stop complaining

Should we be rethinking the reasons we connect with a mentor? New information is bringing to light that similar backgrounds don’t always produce sympathy.

thinking woman

thinking woman

Rethinking the mentorship mindset

Have you ever considered finding a mentor? What do you look for in the person who will be your advisor and teacher? Many people try to find someone who understands their background and situation. It’s practically intuitive, to want to sit under the umbrella of someone who’s been there, done that.

Researchers found that you may want to rethink that mindset.


If someone’s been in your shoes, studies show they don’t sympathize with you

In their studies, they found that people who overcame a difficult experience were less compassionate to those who walked the same path and made bad choices. For example, one of the situations in the study was about a man who was unemployed and turned to drugs to earn a living. Those who once been unemployed for a time were less sympathetic to the man’s plight than those who had never experienced being unemployed.

I understand this mentality. I used to work at a medical billing company. If you’ve never had to deal with the various diagnosis codes, CPT codes, and insurance plans, you can’t imagine the complexity of this. I know how difficult it can be to weed through the billing nightmare to find out why your plan didn’t pay. And still, when I have to call my own insurance company? I have no patience or empathy for the person on the phone.

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Fresh ears, fresh eyes

What is the takeaway? For business-owners, it might mean that you need to rethink your mentoring program. Put people with different backgrounds together. A manager who has gone through something difficult should not their own emotional reaction be the response to those struggling. You’ve heard someone say, “I had to work that hard to get to where I am, so why are you complaining?”

Stop emphasizing your past struggles. Sure, you may have walked in their shoes. But to have the empathy to deal with a situation, you can’t remember your own path. Watch how you deal with people based on your own past.


Dawn Brotherton is a Sr. Staff Writer at The American Genius with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. She is an experienced business writer with over 10 years of experience in SEO and content creation. Since 2017, she has earned $60K+ in grant writing for a local community center, which assists disadvantaged adults in the area.



  1. Pingback: Study: Your mentor wants you to shut up and stop complaining – The American Genius | The Modern Mentor

  2. Pingback: How to snag a free mentor session at SXSW before they’re all gone - The American Genius

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