It’s an approach that’s especially helpful for men who mentor women.
Michelangelo approached the craft of sculpting with the humble conviction that a unique and beautiful piece of art already existed within the stone, and his job was only to release it. We think the best mentors approach their art in the same way.
Social psychologists have already confirmed that in the best romantic relationships, partners sculpt one another in such a manner as to bring each person closer to their ideal self — the person they want to be. Termed the Michelangelo phenomenon, a skilled and thoughtful relationship partner becomes committed to first understanding and then reinforcing or drawing out another’s ideal form. But a skilled mentor can also affirm another’s ideal self — that unique, promising, but vulnerable form that might be hidden from view.
How exactly does a mentor develop a vision of the mentee’s ideal self? As it turns out, it’s all about the art of affirmation. Evidence reveals that two distinct components of mentor affirmation come into play. First comes perceptual affirmation.