How feeling comfortable in an interracial mentor-mentee relationship helps everyone get more out of it

Leitner, J. B., Ayduk, Ö., Boykin, C. M., & Mendoza-Denton, R. (2018). Reducing negative affect and increasing rapport improve interracial mentorship outcomes. PLoS ONE, 13(4), 1–19.

Summarized By Jeremy Astesano

Notes of interest:  In a series of four studies, researchers investigated whether decreasing negative affect and increasing rapport in a mentor-mentee relationship would help increase mentee performance and mentor feedback in an inter-racial mentoring relationship. Overall, results showed that higher self-disclosureto a reduction in negative affect and increased rapport, which ultimately predicted better mentee performance and warmer, more helpful, mentor feedback. These results support the idea that self-disclosure is an important element of a mentoring relationship, and extend previous research by establishing what effect self-disclosure specifically has at the level of affect and rapport.


Introduction: (Reprinted from the Abstract):

Research suggests that interracial mentoring relationships are strained by negative affect and low rapport. As such, it stands to reason that strategies that decrease negative affect and increase rapport should improve these relationships. However, previous research has not tested this possibility. In video-chats (Studies 1 and 2) and face-to-face meetings (Study 3), we manipulated the degree of mutual self-disclosure between mentees and mentors, a strategy that has been shown to reduce negative affect and increase rapport. We then measured negative affect and rapport as mediators, and mentee performance (quality of speech delivered; Studies 1 and 3) and mentor performance (warmth and helpfulness; Studies 2 and 3) as key outcomes. Results revealed that increased self-disclosure decreased negative affect and increased rapport for both mentees and mentors. Among mentees, decreased negative affect predicted better performance (Studies 1 and 3). Among mentors, increased rapport predicted warmer feedback (Studies 2 and 3). These effects remained significant when we meta-analyzed data across studies (Study 4), and also revealed the relationship of rapport to more helpful feedback. Findings suggest that affect and rapport are key features in facilitating positive outcomes in interracial mentoring relationships.


Implications: (Reprinted from the Discussion):

Across three experiments, decreasing negative affect and increasing rapport (via self-disclosure) predicted better performance for mentees (Studies 1, 3, and 4) and warmer and more helpful feedback for mentors (Studies 2, 3, and 4). These findings are important, as positive mentorship is critical for personal and professional growth, and interracial mentorship is becoming increasingly common in many domains. The current results are consistent with research showing that self-disclosure promotes rapport in interpersonal [31] and intergroup [34] contexts. However, the current findings extend previous work by elucidating the specific pathways through which self-disclosure improves outcomes for mentors and mentees. Furthermore, we demonstrated this pattern of effects across both online and face-to-face contexts.

One strength of the current research is that we demonstrated the benefits of reducing negative affect for mentees and increasing rapport among mentors after only a brief meeting in novel mentoring interactions. As such, this research can inform practical interventions that are implemented in the initial stages of mentoring relationships. Nonetheless, since real life mentor-mentee relationships may provide repeated opportunities for interaction over an extended period of time, the effects of rapport and affect might generate even larger benefits than those documented in the current work. It will be important for future research to examine how the processes examined in the current work unfold over time.


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