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The Power of Anthropology in Coaching: From Studying Humanity to Empowering Clients

If you have seen me on the internet, you know that I like to add quite a few letters to the end of my name: M.A., M.L.I.S., and C.H.C. Let’s talk about the M.A. or the master of arts in anthropology for a minute. What is someone like me doing with a master’s in anthropology?

I’ll tell you.

Anthropology was extremely challenging but also one of the most fulfilling periods in my life. I love my anthropology degree because I worked for it, I fought for it, and I’ll be paying for it for a long time. Anthropology studies what makes us human, whether past or current cultures. I learned so much about myself by attempting to understand all of humanity. These are the lessons I took from anthropology into my career as a coach.

  1. Fun is my core value.

When I decided to become an anthropologist, I specialized in museum and heritage studies, or how we document and preserve our heritage in museums. I learned quickly that I was the weird one in my cohort. I was there to have fun and lure visitors into an entertaining and educational experience. In my thesis, I spend a good portion of it explaining how theme parks can be really nifty museums stuffed full of heritage. While playing and researching in a theme park, I realized that if work wasn’t fun, it wasn’t the right work for me. Fun is a core value in my company. I integrate fun into my coaching, keeping my clients and me engaged.

  1. Truth is a treasure.

To be an anthropologist who does qualitative research, I needed to listen to people’s stories. When I interviewed people for my thesis, I valued every single person’s contribution to the research. In the past, anthropologists have twisted or omitted interviews to fit their own narrative. Because of this, we spend much of our time learning about ethics and past mistakes so that we can do better. People aren’t always willing to tell the truth, so when they do, I honor it. In coaching, I can only help someone if they tell me their truth, so I work to build and maintain a safe space for my clients to share their truth with me.

  1. I can do hard things.

Grad school is hard. I found the strength to do incredibly challenging things as an anthropologist. One time, I challenged an instructor on my final grade when it was lower than I thought I deserved (I won). Another time, I drove my 26-year-old car from Denver to Tucson and back (we did it). The hardest part was finishing my classes and thesis in the first few months of the pandemic (I only graduated one term late). I learned that I could do extremely rigorous tasks. Starting my own business is hard. But so was that time I wrote three papers and launched a website for one final.

  1. We contain multitudes.

I am so grateful for the ability to see people in a more complicated way. One of my favorite theories that I learned, though not anthropological, is intersectionality. No person is just one thing. We all have many identities that makeup who we are, and each identity exists separately and simultaneously. For example, there are things I experience because I’m mixed race, a woman, a geek, or neurodiverse. And there are things I experience because I’m all of those things. Each of those identities would be enough on their own, but when they come together, there’s a clearer picture of who I am and how I got here. With my clients, I can encourage them to explore those identities to write the narrative they wish for themselves.

  1. I have a lot to learn.

The last lesson anthropology gave me is that I genuinely don’t know where anyone’s path is going, not even mine. I didn’t take a single anthropology course in my undergraduate experience, and the graduate program let me in anyway. While studying furiously, I was deadset convinced I would be working in cutting-edge exhibits or with theme parks creating historical reproductions. Now, as a coach, anthropology has given me much more depth to explore with my clients. It’s not my job to know exactly where my client will go. All I can do is help get them there safely.

I wouldn’t be the coach I am today without anthropology, and I hope some people can find comfort in that. My experience isn’t wasted because I chose a different career path. Skills are transferable, people are complicated, and the future is absolutely wild.


If this resonated with you, schedule a free 15-minute consultation with me to see if we can work together.

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