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Showing Up Powerfully Around a Racial Violation

By Susana Rinderle  October 7, 2014

HandsAs a Coaching for Transformation student, I'm gaining experience and hours by exchanging coaching with other new coaches in my city in different training programs. These coaches are also part of a larger group which meets monthly for happy hour.

The last time we met, there was a new woman present. I was triggered when she told a story about a nephew who grew up around "Black" kids and was used to hearing them say "the n-word" to each other. One day he called one of them "the n-word" at school and got into major trouble. The adults made a big fuss and forced the boy to apologize.

The woman expressed frustration, outrage and sadness at the injustice of it. I started feeling unsafe, with an "oh no, here we go again!" sensation of dread as her story went where I feared it would—affluent Boomer White woman bemoaning a White child’s victimization by Black children and hypersensitive adults.

Since we didn't have a relationship, I decided against addressing the new woman or the group. But then my coach peer responded to her story, remarking about a "double standard" and sharing in her indignation.

I decided that to honor my need for safety, which I’d disclosed in our discovery session, I had to say something to her. It was scary because generally I like her, I wanted to avoid conflict, and my "stuff" around race and class was coming up.

I started our next session by saying that something had come up that I needed to share in the context of providing feedback and honoring my need for safety. I described specifically what I observed, how I felt, and why I felt unsafe. I offered to explain more outside our coaching relationship about why this example isn't a "double standard" in my view, and why her comment triggered me.

I was pleased that while she didn’t understand fully why this incident was triggering (nor did she clearly remember it!), she did seem to care and responded openly to the feedback. I told her I didn't need anything from her (apology, shift in awareness, etc.) other than space to share my experience, and have my feelings heard. We went on to have a productive session.

I was struck by how a situation can be traumatizing to one person, and completely forgotten by another. I felt energized by how I showed up empowered and clear with no expectations (only hopes) and surprised by how that was received. I felt inspired by the way I was able to shift an old pattern of categorizing people as safe or unsafe to identifying behaviors as safe or unsafe, and addressing those. I came away with more empathy for clients that experience a trust violation with their coach...and inspired to ensure I create an environment where I can hear such feedback myself.

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About the author:

Susana RindereleSusana Rinderle, M.A., is an Albuquerque-based trainer, coach, facilitator and consultant. She helps people communicate effectively across differences and translate good intentions into positive actions, and she equips organizations to create inclusive environments where brilliance and excellence flourish. A native of Los Angeles, she has 40 years of personal experience navigating differences, and 20+ years of professional diversity experience in multiple sectors in the U.S. and Mexico, including nonprofit, education, performing arts, corporate and healthcare.

Susana holds a B.A. in sociology from UCLA and an M.A. in intercultural communication from UNM, and studied at UNAM in Mexico City. She was featured at TEDxABQ 2012 speaking on "Diversity is Necessary for Human Evolution." Susana is a regular blogger for Diversity Executive Magazine, and her work has appeared in Diversity Best Practices.

Susana is currently enrolled in Coaching for Transformation and will graduate in December. Learn more and contact her at www.susanarinderle.com

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