Mentoring and the election

Should you talk about the election with your mentee?

We all know the general rule: Avoid talking about religion and politics in public. But does this rule hold true for mentors and mentees? Politics are tricky, particularly during this election year that has been characterized by personal attacks and negativity. What’s a mentor to do? Michigan State University Extension has some tips to help mentors navigate political conversations with their mentee.

First, let your mentee take the lead. If your mentee brings up the election, that opens a door to the conversation. If they don’t talk about it, think twice before bringing it up. Once the topic of the election is on the table, ask your mentee questions rather than lead with your opinions. As an older friend and role model, it is important to recognize that your mentee may want to please you or be inclined to take on your beliefs. To prevent this from happening, ask open-ended questions that are age appropriate.

It is possible your mentee has picked up on news stories and opinions of others. Consider the opportunity to teach your mentee how to find reliable, non-biased information about candidates and proposals. You can get on a computer together and look through a variety of websites and compare the stories from one source to another. Quickly, your mentee will begin to see some sources are biased and not everything on the internet is true.

At some point, you will likely be asked what you think or who you are voting for. If you are a person who doesn’t usually share your intentions, it is perfectly acceptable to tell your mentee you are uncomfortable sharing that information with anyone. If you are open, choose your words wisely and remember that your mentee’s family or someone they care about might be voting differently.

Rather than talking about why you are not voting for a candidate, share what you like about the candidate you are voting for. It can be helpful to talk about personal priorities in explaining your choice. While your vote may be guided by one issue that is a priority to you, someone else who agrees with you on that issue may choose a different candidate because they prioritize a different issue. During these divided times, it is important to empower young people to have political opinions and encourage them to respect differing opinions.

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