1-1s: General advice
1-1s: General advice

1-1s: General advice

As we've already mentioned, we think that 1-1s are an impactful and customisable approach that helps you cater to your community as individuals.

1-1 meetings between you and your community members not only help you to recognise and serve their individual needs, but also help you keep your finger on the pulse of your community.

So what can we do to deliver valuable 1-1s?

Here's some general advice:

  1. Act more like a peer than a teacher.
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    We think that 1-1 mentoring isn't like teaching. You're much closer to their level, not someone telling them what to do or think.

    Feel welcome to clarify misconceptions about EA/philosophical issues, but recognise that you probably don't have everything solved. Be active in displaying your epistemic modesty and deference to people more experienced than you.

    This is even more important when the person you're mentoring is more advanced in the pipeline.

  3. Build a good rapport.
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    It's really helpful to have a good relationship with your mentee, because people tend to be more receptive to new ideas and more open to sharing their own when they feel comfortable. You could even spend the whole first session just establishing a natural and friendly dynamic between you and your mentee.

    This will look different depending on the kinds of people you and your mentees are, and that's great - a major advantage of 1-1s is that they're customisable, after all!

    Try to be aware of how you interact with people and be ready to adapt to your different mentees.

    For example, even if you're really extroverted, that doesn't mean everyone will respond well to you being very friendly. They might need time to 'warm up', and you'll come across as pushy.

    There's no easy solution here. To give good 1-1s, you'll need an ability to read other people's social cues and needs. This skill will improve over time.

    It's important that you remain attentive to your mentees throughout the mentorship as a whole, and that you're ready to change tack if you don't think it's working for them.

    Here are some approaches you might consider:

    • Some people will respond well if you make the dynamic more explicit and set expectations for how you want to communicate early.
    • Humour is often unpredictable, but laughter can generally inject lightheartedness into what might otherwise be a dry conversation. Be ready to acknowledge some philosophical ideas and their implications as weird, and you don't have to take them 100% seriously all the time (but don't mock anybody's worldview or lives, especially that of the mentee).
    • You can usually dissolve some of the initial tension in 1-1s if you tend to be more honest than you might be with a stranger. By this, we don't mean necessarily frankness, but more openness - don't respond formulaically to questions like "How are you?", but instead actually give a truthful reply, of the sort that you would to someone you've been friends with for some time. Try to strike a balance between telling the honest truth and not violating anyone's emotional boundaries (yours very much included).
  5. Get them excited about using these ideas to actually do something.
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    At pretty much every college/university, most students will be exposed to ideas in their field that have dramatically reshaped the world. That's why it's often a bit strange that in higher education the actual courses people do often don't seem to really change their mind much. Even if courses do change people's minds they don't really change how people act (at least consciously).

    Imagine it from their perspective:

    Your professor just refuted a core argument in favour of the moral system you've believed in all your life. It seems pretty reasonable that you might want to think long and hard about what implications this might mean for the rest of your life. But it's Tuesday, you didn't sleep amazingly last night, you've got four assignments to get done this week, and there's not really time in your already packed schedule of classes and extracurriculars for deep moral exploration. Instead of "Wow! The shape of my future is practically spinning on a dime right now!" you think "Hunh, interesting. Guess I'll get to that sometime. Sort out that whole morality thing."

    As a 1-1 mentor, you can help people not only find the time to actually do this thinking, but get them excited about how their life can change.

    It's a massive and often aversive task to examine deep-seated values, especially when it involves questioning fundamental assumptions about the world and morality.

    As a mentor, you're creating space for your mentees to talk freely about their views without the danger of ridicule, and without the pressure of having to do it all alone.

    By talking to you, your mentees can explore potential perspectives that they could hold, with your help to double-check their reasoning and develop their ideas even further. And, throughout, while they're explicitly talking to you about all this, you've actually also set them in an honest dialogue with themselves. This might even persist outside of your conversations with them, if you set them up to regard your conversations as potentially life changing!

  7. Be an example of someone who really cares - that's why you think carefully about EA
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    A major impact you can have through your 1-1s is showing that you are someone who really cares about doing good and this leads you to take these ideas seriously and have them affect your life.

    It's common for people to intellectually agree with EA ideas without having made the connection to their heart that leads them to caring much more deeply. If you can show how you expanded your moral circle not only intellectually, but also emotionally, that can have a really big effect on people.

    Obviously, it's not for everyone, but some mentors find it can be useful to bring up times they've cried about things like how horrible factory farming is, how bad the future could be, and how good the future could be.

  9. Meet somewhere public and busy, at least for your first meeting
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    We want you and your community members to feel safe and be safe when engaging with these ideas.

    Hosting a 1-1 in a private residence, even on campus, can skew the interaction in the favour of the host.

    Inviting people back to your personal residence for conversations about student group matters might be a campus norm at your university/college, and if that's the case, you can probably disregard reputational concerns. But there still seem to be good reasons for both you and the community member to meet on more neutral ground, if not just for the first meeting.

    As a student group organiser, you should reflect on the perceived position of authority and power you might be seen to hold over the community member you're talking to.

    It's not initially clear to them how official or important you might be within the EA movement, or even just within your organisation - for all they know you could be hiring them one day (and that honestly might happen more than you'd think).

    We suggest that you meet in a public place that they know well and are comfortable with.

  11. Prepare diligently before each conversation, and know what you want them to get out of it.
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    This is more important the newer you are to running 1-1s, but will never cease to be useful.

    Getting a really clear picture of the person you're going to talk to ahead of time helps you accurately tailor the 1-1 to the mentee's needs, and establishes which of the broad types of 1-1 you should be expecting to give, though most 1-1s will cross over multiple types.

    To prepare ahead of time, you need to try to form an impression from the existing information you have about them. We recommend having a way for your mentee to tell you about their background and what they want to discuss, in advance of your meeting.

    The amount or type of information you might have will vary somewhat, but will often look like working out:

    • What place they're at in their degree or career,
    • Their general background,
    • Their level of engagement with EA/philosophy,
    • Their previous attendance at your group's events

    From this information, you should be able to pitch the interaction at the right level of engagement, and prepare resources and thinking.

    If you're using our
    Group Dashboard Guide & Template
    Group Dashboard Guide & Template
    , all this information should be in their Airtable entry, and really easy to find!
  13. Reflect actively after each conversation on what you should do next and what you should do differently next time.
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    The more 1-1s you do, and in general the busier you are, the harder it'll be to keep track of everybody in a detailed way.

    Instead of just relying on your memory, make notes afterwards of what you discussed and especially make sure to record what next steps you want to follow up with.

    Make these notes using the 1-1 log form that links to your

    if you're using our system

    You can also use this notetaking and follow-up time to reflect on how you delivered the 1-1. We've added a question to our Group Dashboard template that prompts you to spend some time thinking about how you could have improved the experience for the mentee, and work out from this what you want to do to hone this skill further. This will make you much better at 1-1s much faster than if you didn't reflect on them.

    You can keep track of next steps however works best for you, for example, inputting them straight into your task system of choice.

    Voice notes can be helpful in giving a super quick, low effort download, and you can always take them on your laptop or phone.

    Often it can be good to send a summary of the key takeaways from the conversation to your mentee.