Why Sensitive Introverts Make Great Mentors

A highly sensitive mentor talks to her mentee

Sensitive introverts are empathetic guides who have hard-won wisdom to share.

She sat there across the room, headphones on, arms folded, avoiding eye contact. It was maybe our second or third time meeting, and she said she didn’t feel like talking.

“No problem,” I assured her, “I feel that way all the time. I’d like to just sit in here with you if that’s okay.”

And that’s what we did.

I started mentoring Alicia (not her real name) when she was nearly 13 years old. I was 24, had just moved back to my hometown, and was feeling lost and aimless. I was just beginning to understand who I was and, consequently, getting in touch with my wants and needs for the first time. My life up to that point was mostly about fitting into a box that, thanks to my sensitivity and introversion, I finally realized I was never going to fit. 

I had always volunteered my time, unaware of how utterly drained it left me. As is so often the case with highly sensitive people (HSPs), I have a strong sense of purpose and a desire to make a difference — but I am also drained by being around others and easily overstimulated. This isn’t exactly a recipe for success when it comes to my desire to live a life of meaning and impact. 

So, while perusing a list of local volunteer possibilities, I came across a mentorship program with a girl’s group home. One-on-one interaction with the same person twice a month felt within my capacity, so I signed up. 

That was over a decade ago. Alicia recently graduated from college and is now working as a woman in STEM. And thanks to mentorship, I got to be there, holding space for her, encouraging her, and cheering her on every step of the way. I could not be more proud.

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Mentorship Is Ideal for Sensitive Introverts

In our digital age, we are more aware of the world’s problems, needs, and hurts than ever before. It can leave anyone feeling helpless. But for sensitive introverts, who possess extreme empathy and an intense sense of justice, not to mention a strong tendency toward overstimulation, it can all be too much to bear. Our sensitivity and responsiveness transcend technology, so every tragedy, every headline, every TikTok portraying hardship hits us — and hard. 

What’s a sensitive introvert to do with all this empathy in a world of such deep need? It can feel pointless to do anything at all, knowing our limited capacities will never be enough. Still, I am convinced that not only is there a place for sensitive people in all this need, but we are uniquely suited to make a lasting impact just by being ourselves. The answer, I believe, is in digging into our strengths and contributing to real solutions in our own way — in a way that works for us. That’s where mentorship comes in. 

Mentorship is a natural fit for sensitive introverts. By focusing our limited energy on one person at a time, we utilize all the best parts of us to make a deep, enduring impact. It can feel like it isn’t enough, in light of all the problems in the world today. But there is something irreplicable about personal relationships in the grand scheme of a better world.

Yes, global movements and millions of followers have their merit, but meaningful, one-on-one relationships might be the true key to tackling the big problems. There are infinite ways our efforts can ripple out through those we mentor, not to mention how it positively impacts us as mentors, as well. 

Maximum impact utilizing our unique strengths in a non-overwhelming environment? It’s an introvert’s dream! Here’s why you can thrive as a mentor. (You’ll see!)

3 Reasons Sensitive Introverts Thrive as Mentors

1. It gives us a comfortable, yet meaningful, way to contribute. 

There are so many ways to volunteer and join causes that matter to you, but few combine the meaningful contribution that sensitive introverts can offer while also providing an environment that is conducive to our sensitivities. 

Of course, this isn’t to say we shouldn’t step out of our comfort zones and get a little exhausted from time to time, but we do have to protect our energy in order to consistently contribute to the world. Mentorship provides a way to do just that through deep, long-lasting, one-on-one relationships that don’t leave us burned out.

2. Through mentorship, we pass on our hard-won wisdom.

Many sensitive introverts are full of deeply-mined wisdom to share. Our life lessons are hard-won, and we are meant to pass them on to others. Since we are introverted, we do this naturally through close, one-on-one relationships. A mentoring relationship connects us with individuals who genuinely want to hear what we have to share.

3. Mentorship is highly customizable.

The essence of mentorship is a supportive, one-on-one relationship over an extended period of time. Everything else can be suited to the mentor and mentee. Of course, it works best if both participants are well-suited for each other, which makes it even more ideal for sensitive introverts! 

With Alicia, I knew I was never going to be able to be the “flashy” mentor, going to flashy places or doing flashy things. But — we discovered a mutual love for bubble tea, which made for easy plans that we both enjoyed. It seemed like she was able to slow down and catch her breath when she was with me, which I credit to my natural preferences for low-stimulation and high-contemplation. 

Furthermore, mentorship doesn’t just suit our needs as highly sensitive introverts; it also optimizes our strengths and benefits our mentees. When we can bring our best qualities to a role, we are that much more impactful. Here are just a few examples.

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4 Reasons Sensitive Introverts Make Great Mentors 

1. We thrive in one-on-one relationships. 

We have spent so much of our lives trying to conform to what the majority around us prioritizes that we forget about the roles where we can easily thrive. Sensitive introverts make caring mentors who effortlessly shine one-on-one. We can offer the best of ourselves when we aren’t overstimulated or overwhelmed. In turn, mentees feel seen, understood, and valued by us. It’s just part of who we are.

2. We’re thoughtful and thorough. 

This is one area where our strengths are often undervalued in other volunteer roles. We can’t help but think deeply and often our best efforts come from honing in on a single outcome, goal, or in this case, mentee. We don’t have to waste our energy trying to be all things to all people. Instead, we can devote our attention to one person over the long haul. Remember, not everyone can do this as readily as we can.

3. We’re great listeners. 

When I first met Alicia, she was in a group home with around 10 other girls, all needing and deserving individualized attention. Meeting that need is precisely what sensitive introverts are designed for. In mentorship, we don’t have to be outspoken or an “Energizer Bunny.” We can be exactly who we are, and simply offer our presence and a listening ear.

4. We can serve as empathetic guides.

 A key to mentorship is to offer supportive guidance tailored to the individual mentee. Sensitive introverts do this easily because our highly reactive brains pick up on the nuanced details of people’s lives. Especially in a long-term mentoring relationship, there will certainly be challenges, hardships, and setbacks to walk through. We can trust our empathetic intuition to gently guide mentees in a way that supports them, without being overbearing. 

So, my fellow sensitive introverts, don’t ignore your longing to make a difference, or discount it, because you can’t do what less sensitive extroverts can. The world needs you to show up exactly as you are. Plus, you can make an impact in a way that fills you up as you invest in a better world, one person at a time.  

For more information on mentorship opportunities, check out the following:

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