How to thank a mentor

A friend recently asked me, “How can I ever thank my mentor?”


My simple 4-thing checklist of “giving back”

1. Listen with full attention

God, it feels so good to be truly listened to. Most of us have only felt this a few times in our lives, and when it’s on… you never want to stop sharing yourself.

People who are drawn to mentoring believe they have something to share, and there’s NOTHING more flattering, gratifying, satisfying, than the feeling that what you’re sharing is so important that it warrants another person’s full attention.

You’re listening with full attention if you’re tired after an hour, maybe even half an hour.

2. Make lateral connections

Full, attentive listening enables you to hear the takeaways from the immediate conversation or circumstance, no matter how specific, and apply the takeaways to other areas by distilling their greater meaning.


We know those people who seem like they’re listening because they give “uh huh, uh huh, uh huh” feedback, and then nothing changes.

It’s a really standout person who can be the opposite, and take action.

When you water a plant, and the next day it grows taller, that action’s a reward that makes you want to keep watering it (not ignore it).

4. Follow up

A ‘thank you’ is an obvious follow-up. A “here’s how I’m doing AND thank you” check-in is less obvious and requires thought and care.

That’s the kind of follow-up that makes me want to keep giving generously through mentorship.

Most times I’ve been asked for advice, the asker takes my time/ effort and forgets to follow up. It’s not malicious, but definitely reminds me not to spend that time/ effort on that person again.


Thank yous never have to be lavish, just earnest, true and — most important — consistent.

2 Comments on “How to thank a mentor”

  1. What a great post! At the same time I am guilty as charged. Sometimes life seems to be flying by so fast that I can’t catch up. I think about all the emails that I never acknowledged and I wonder if the sender ever noticed that I did not acknowledge him/her. Most people don’t seem to care if the communication was actually received. Most people do not notice that I never let them know that I got the message and understand it. I guess the assumption is that, “if I send it, he must have gotten it.”
    I do appreciate your insightful observation that an acknowledgment is warranted after help is offered. At least some (even non verbal sign) that some gain was gotten from the help that was rendered.
    So maybe it is just “the sign of the times” where life is moving so fast that the little (but important) inter-personal details are no longer important. But isn’t it the details who make us who we really are? Maybe it is time to slow life down a little and enjoy not only yourself but those who you interact with. And really appreciate the help that is offered and given so freely.

  2. I appreciate that you shared this. I’ll try to apply it the next time. Apparently hare wrongly thought that a follow up would be wasting their time? that’s sharing an introvert perspective.

    I particularly default to express the gratitude in helping their content reach more people when I can.

    Thank you Susan!

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