Interpreter Presence

In my coach training, we have been learning about the professional credentialing body of many coaches internationally (International Coaching Federation). We have started in earnest to collect our practice hours and start having individual feedback sessions with our teacher. In a recent session, we were discussing the rubric used to evaluate coaching session recordings by ICF. There are a number of categories, as you might imagine, but I want to talk about “coaching presence,” and the potential applications I see to this concept of presence for interpreters and interpreter educators. 

According to ICF, coaching presence is defined as, “Being fully conscious and creating spontaneous relationships with clients, employing a style that is open, flexible and confident.” Some of the criteria used to evaluate is: 

Competency 4: Coaching Presence

  1. Coach’s questions and observations are customized by using what the coach has learned about who the client is and the client’s situation.
  2. Coach inquires about or explores the client’s use of language.
  3. Coach inquires about or explores the client’s emotions.
  4. Coach inquires about or explores the client’s tone of voice, pace of speech or inflection as appropriate.
  5. Coach inquires about or explores the client’s behaviors.
  6. Coach inquires about or explores how the client perceives his/her world.
  7. Coach is quiet and gives client time to think.

It seems to me a helpful frame that may be missing from interpreting and interpreter education. We do talk about impartiality, and being skilled but not about how we show up to the job and hold space for the communication event for which we were hired. We do not talk about the active work that it is to be present and yet withhold judgement, hold space for whatever needs to happen. It isn’t just a matter of being “neutral” (which we could argue about for eons and its impossiblity), it is about living out, actively, our values of non-interference, autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice (see Beachamp & Childress 2001). 

How we show up in a space need not be happenstance, it actually requires active cognitive and emotional work to be present and make space for the interaction that we are responsible for, to hold space, regardless of our own preferences, opinions, etc. It is tapping in to a belief that its not about what *I* think should happen or needs to happen but rather about what the interlcoturs need to happen.

Developing an interpreter presence mantra, questions to deepen your practice

  • What do you believe about ways of being human? 
  • What do you want to remember about your function as an interpreter in other’s interactions? 
  • What do you want to contribute to the space? Anxiety, calm, openness, etc? 
  • What do you want to characterize your presence as an interpreter in interactions? 

Potential mantras:

  • I am a calm presence.
  • I am open to the communication that occurs here today.
  • I understand people who use sign language and English, and they understand me (modified from a workshop participant recently). 

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