A Research Paper By Nisha Sharma
(Life Coaching, UNITED KINGDOM)
Our background and culture can influence our decisions, thought process and perspective in life
I am a British Born Asian and my parents are originally from India, from the state of Punjab. Stereo-typically, Punjabi families are quite big as some live in ‘joint’ families and Punjabi’s are generally known to be loud and very giving people and those who love their food – my family is very much the same! Since I started my coaching studies, I was fascinated by the number of people within my community who simply didn’t understand what I was studying for and what is coaching. Many thought why you would need someone else to help you “sort your life out”. More so Punjabi families are also very conservative people who do not share their personal problems or issues in an external environment, so the notion of coaching was very unheard of. Some even associated coaching with counselling and there is a generally a big social stigma attached to counselling therefore the association with coaching was the same.
Whilst speaking to one family friend about coaching back in December 2012 and my nerves surrounding it and what others would think of me, I was asked if I would like to coach an Indian Punjabi family to show them the benefits. I accepted this challenge – as I was fully aware it was going to be a huge challenge!
Real names have been changed to protect identity.
- Grandfather - referred to as 'Bau-ji' respectfully in punjabi - aged 69. A retired man who has one son and has worked all his life in government services. He lost his wife at the age of 55 and generally tends to stay indoors a lot.
- The Son and Daughter in law - Raj and Priya (49, and 46 years old, respectively). Raj is a professional working in the financial services industry. He does extremely well in his career and spends a lot of time at work due to the nature of his job. Raj is the financial provider for the family. Priya is a housewife who looks after the family and rarely spends any time doing anything for herself. She is a graduate in Psychology however, since her marriage and children being born; her duties are bound to family and the household chores.
- The two children - Jay and Serena (17, and 23). Jay is 17 and to enter university next year. He is looking to study music and is a very loud, bubbly and emotionally passionate character. Serena has just finished university graduating from a Business Management degree and is now looking for work. A timid, quiet, responsible and intelligent personality who is very protective of her younger brother and very close to her grandfather.
The family all live together in London.
THE COACHING PROCESS
The group coaching sessions were held at appropriate times over 12 weeks, in which 10 sessions were completed. Location would be their family home. Each session would last around 1 hour 30 minutes – 2 hours.
THE FIRST SESSION
Coaching an Indian family, knowing fully aware they have no knowledge of what coaching is, made me feel extremely nervous. I decided to use the first session as an ‘intro and discovery’ session. I started off with an introduction to coaching and what it is and talking about some of the popular coaches out there. Thereon, I asked the questions below to further progress the session (please note at times, I spoke in Hindi and Punjabi so translation has been applied below):
- What did you think of the talk I gave on coaching?
- How do you feel about being here in such an environment?
- How has your week been?
- What do you do together as a family?
- Then asked each person to give a description of themselves and what they do.
- How would you describe your life to date?
- What is the one thing you would love to do now? (this question was used to create
goals and lead onto further questions)
Initially, Bau-ji was the first one to speak to say ‘I’m not sure what we are doing here!’ in Punjabi. However when in response to describe their life to date, Bau-ji was the one whom spoke the most – possibly down to his experience. He spoke about the transition from moving from India to UK in 1954 and the struggles they faced. He continued to speak about how he managed to look after his family in the UK and also back in India, and how his wife and he bought up their son in such hardships. Bau-ji then delved in deeper to speak about the loss of his wife and how lonely he feels since her passing. This led to hearing sadness in Bau-ji’s voice, at which time his son Raj entered the conversation and took over.
Raj spoke very little in the first session. His conversation mainly revolved around his work and how the pressures he had faced over the last week or so. Raj didn’t delve in deep at all when asked about his life. His responses were very practical and very openly said he was at the coaching session because his wife had encouraged him.
Priya was very friendly, warm and open in the first session and was really looking forward to the coaching and found the talk on it very interesting. Speaking about her transition from being a single woman to a married woman, one could clearly see she felt she had missed opportunities in her life. Hearing Priya speak about her Psychology degree and her passion for Dance saw this renewed energy in the room. One could clearly see Priya held the family together and she spoke about her family immensely and how many activities, travels they do together. Jay very innocently bought up a question asking his mother ‘why don’t you dance mum, I’ve never seen you dance’ this led to some silence in the room but the conversation moved onto Jay thereafter.
Jay was very involved in the coaching session and very openly spoke about his life and what he wanted to do. Though his father Raj and Bauji were in clear disagreement with his intention to do music studies, Jay continued with his passion regardless with the support from his mother and sister. It was clearly evident that Jay’s love and passion was music.
Serena was generally quiet throughout the session and when in conversation, she spoke very politely and very kind by nature. She was very open to trying the coaching and said she is happy to try anything once. Serena mentioned she had a very happy life to date, but is now in confusion in what to do with her life after graduating. Her father wants for her to settle down in marriage yet her mother wishes for her to find a job and progress in whatever she wishes. Serena in this state of confusion of life and work said she does not know what she would love to do right now.