Two colleagues of mine were debating how much to bring identity politics into their work. For one of them, it was irresponsible to take the lead in conversations about their participants’ cultural identities: for example, in the first session, don’t ask a Filipino woman about prejudice she’s faced. She probably wants to show up as a person, rather than being reduced to this one aspect of her identity and the presumption she’s faced prejudice. For the other colleague, it was irresponsible not to get into politics: go ahead and acknowledge early that the client is a Filipino woman and that prejudices exist, so she doesn’t have to worry about bringing that up herself, and she knows that you embrace a core part of who she is beyond stereotypes.
The debate got me itching to articulate my own stance on engaging cultural identities in coaching.