Cultural Humility

Definition: “Cultural humility is an acknowledgement of one’s own barriers to true intercultural understanding. It is the difference between intellectually knowing another culture and being able to truly relate to it” (Unite for Sight, 2011).
Cultural humility is an alternative approach to that of cultural competency. It “requires humility as individuals continually engage in self-reflection and self-critique as lifelong learners and reflective practitioners” (Tervalon & Murray-Garcia, 1998, p. 118). Through cultural humility individuals engage in a process of mutual understanding and awareness of self in relationship to others. When coaches embrace cultural humility it precludes them from operating under the assumption that they are “culturally competent,” and they learn about those with whom they interact.
Humility is not to be confused with meekness, but the “ability to acknowledge gaps in one’s knowledge, and openness to new ideas, contradictory information, and advice.”
~ Tangney, 2000, p. 73

By working from a perspective of cultural humility each individual, especially the coach, will (a) declare his or her own lifelong commitment to learning, (b) recognize when potential power imbalances are present, and (c) be flexible and humble enough to “let go of the false sense of security that their training and experiences have afforded them” (Tervalon & Murray-Garcia, 1998, p. 119).
Engaging in a process of self-awareness and self-reflection will ideally awaken the coach to the power imbalance of coaches and learners, which may influence their response to the coaching they provide.

 Coaches, learners, supervisors, and agency leadership are encouraged to be flexible and humble enough to know that the process of coaching will be dynamic and potentially complicated. They must acknowledge what they do not know and search for and access resources to help.

Principles of cultural humility (adapted from Ortega and Faller, 1997)
  • Embrace the complexity of diversity: In day-to-day existence each individual occupies multiple positions with related identities and statuses. These identities operate together, or intersect, to distinguish each of us as individuals.
  • Be open to individual differences and the social experiences resulting from these differences: Intersecting group memberships affect people’s expectations, quality of life, capacities as individuals and parents, and life choices.
  • Reserve judgment: Place value on the learner’s cultural expressions of concern and perspective.
  • “Know thyself” and how coaches’ biases interfere with the ability to listen objectively and work with learners: Coaches must engage simultaneously in a process of realistic, ongoing self-appraisal of biases and stereotypes.
  • Critically challenge one’s “openness” to learn from others: Coaches should assess how their own attitudes and behaviors create a barrier to learning from others.
  • Build organizational support that demonstrates cultural humility: Implementing cultural humility includes an assessment of the organizational environment, policies, procedures, knowledge, and skills connected to learner practices. Effort must be made to identify ways in which a cultural humility perspective is embraced and promoted. Likewise, effort must be made to uncover barriers and obstacles within the organization that inhibit cultural humility.
By engaging in a process of realistic, ongoing self-appraisal of biases and stereotypes, coaches are encouraged to assess the ways in which their own attitudes and behaviors prevent them from learning from others.
~ Tervalon & Murray Garcia, 1998

Cultural humility promotes the following efforts:
  • Continuous engagement in self-reflection and self-critique as lifelong learners and reflective coaches.
  • Checking power imbalances that exist in the coach-learner relationship.
  • Mutual respect, partnership, and advocacy with communities on behalf of the clients served and in which clients are embedded.
We do not see things as they are,
we see things as we are.
~ Anais Nin

1 comment:

  1. If you have been searching the internet for something, you will usually end up with a life coach site popping up in your results at
    some point. Life Coaching has evolved over the years and continues to change and grow - but what is life coaching, how do you choose a
    life coach, and what should you be aware of?If you need more information take a peek at- Coaching Mannheim