Roberta Pagliarulo

Roberta Pagliarulo has a solid experience as coach and mentor with top management and executives in multicultural contexts. She holds the ICF credential PCC and has over 10 years of experience as trainer and supervisor in Certification Coaching Courses in Italy and Asia. Roberta is the co-creator of the ICF-certified course “Develop your cultural sensitivity for successful cross-cultural coaching, mentoring & leadership”. She is also guest speaker at international coaching and HR conferences. In 2018 she received 100 Top Global Coaching Leaders Award during the World Coaching Congress where she participated as a speaker.


How intercultural skills can make us more resilient

The global pandemic as well as stressors as a result of the VUCA (i.e., volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world of associated, rapid changes has made clients’ resilience the topic of many coaching conversations. However, practitioners have been affected by the same forces themselves, and resilience has emerged increasingly as a topic in coaching supervision, too.

Resilience can be defined as “the ability to persist in the face of challenges and to bounce back from adversity” (Reivich, Seligman, & McBride, 2011, p. 25). But what makes people resilient? One protective factor appear to be positive relationships, social support and connections with others (e.g., Bonanno, Galea, Bucciarelli, & Vlahov, 2007; Cornell et al., 2021; Panchal, Palmer, & O’Riordan, 2020; Reivich et al., 2011). Thus, the ability to create and maintain connections can be crucial for an individual’s resilience. Cultural aspects can play an important role in how we form and maintain connections, for example in the context of more individualistic or collectivistic cultures (Triandis, 2001) and the ability to cope (Kuo, 2013). This has implications for practitioners’ own resilience as well as how we coach clients for resilience.

Understanding how cultural environment, values and beliefs can shape mental function and behaviour is the remit of cultural neuroscience, a growing field that connects neuroscience and cultural psychology (Chiao, 2009; Sasaki & Kim, 2017). If culture shapes biology and biology shapes culture as various studies have shown (e.g., Chiao & Blizinsky, 2010; Chiao et al., 2010; Ganis, Kutas, & Sereno, 1996; Goto, Ando, Huang, Yee, & Lewis, 2010), then cultural neuroscience may inform coaching conversations. By considering aspects like biases, individualism and collectivism as phenomena of cultural neuroscience, they may help shape the coaching conversation with a view to how we (i.e., practitioner and client) connect and how the skills inherent in cultural versatility and sensitivity can increase resilience in VUCA environments that are increasingly diverse and multicultural as a result of remote work that extends the global and social reach while paradoxically reducing the direct physical connection.

This presentation explores:

- The role of and awareness for culture and cultural neuroscience for resilience

- How cultural neuroscience and cross-cultural skills can be applied in coaching conversations

- How the coachee culture can be leveraged for resilience

- How intercultural sensitivity and skills can be leveraged in any complex, uncertain and ambiguous contexts for resilience.


Bonanno, G. A., Galea, S., Bucciarelli, A., & Vlahov, D. (2007). What Predicts Psychological Resilience After Disaster? The Role of Demographics, Resources, and Life Stress. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 75(5), 671–682.

Chiao, J. Y. (Ed.). (2009). Cultural neuroscience: Cultural influences on brain function (Progress i). New York, Oxford, Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Chiao, J. Y., & Blizinsky, K. D. (2010). Culture-gene coevolution of individualismcollectivism and the serotonin transporter gene. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 277(1681), 529–537.

Chiao, J. Y., Hariri, A. R., Harada, T., Mano, Y., Sadato, N., Parrish, T. B., & Iidaka, T. (2010). Theory and methods in cultural neuroscience. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 5(2–3), 356–361.

Cornell, S., Nickel, B., Cvejic, E., Bonner, C., McCaffery, K. J., Ayre, J., … Dodd, R. (2021). Positive outcomes associated with the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. Health Promotion Journal of Australia, (April), 1–9.

Ganis, G., Kutas, M., & Sereno, M. I. (1996). The search for “common sense”: An electrophysiological study of the Comprehension of Words and Pictures in Reading. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 8(2), 89–106.

Goto, S. G., Ando, Y., Huang, C., Yee, A., & Lewis, R. S. (2010). Cultural differences in the visual processing of meaning: Detecting incongruities between background and foreground objects using the N400. SCAN, 5, 242–253.

Kuo, B. C. H. (2013). Collectivism and coping: Current theories, evidence, and measurements of collective coping. International Journal of Psychology, 48(3), 374–388.

Panchal, S., Palmer, S., & O’Riordan, S. (2020). Enhancing transition resilience: Using the INSIGHT coaching and counselling model to assist in coping with COVID-19. International Journal of Stress Prevention and Wellbeing, 4(May), 1–6. Retrieved from

Reivich, K. J., Seligman, M. E. P., & McBride, S. (2011). Master Resilience Training in the U.S. Army. American Psychologist, 66(1), 25–34.

Sasaki, J. Y., & Kim, H. S. (2017). Nature, Nurture, and Their Interplay: A Review of Cultural Neuroscience. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 48(1), 4–22.

Triandis, H. C. (2001). Individualism-Collectivism and Personality. Journal of Personality, 69(6), 907–924.

Roberta Pagliarulo