Social Identity Groups

Today I was introduced to a new concept: Social Identity Groups. I am participating in an online course offered by Case Western Reserve University called Inspired Leadership and led by Dr. Richard Boyatzis. Social Identity Groups were introduced to us today in the context of coaching for compassion.

Social identity groups are quite simply, groups from which we pull part of our identity. Sometimes it’s a group that you’re a part of. Sometimes it’s a group that you explicitly join. And sometimes it’s an aspirational group. But it’s always a group that has some shared values with you, or has some important meaning that you share with them. Examples are: universities, sports teams, religious groups and professional organizations.

We did an interesting exercise where we listed the social identity groups we felt we were a part of and then reflected over whether they were each generally positive for us or generally negative for us. We also reflected over whether they were helping us in achieving our own personal vision. Being a part of a negative social identity group can act as a hinder to achieving one’s own vision. They can also provide the positive support and inspiration needed to keep at it, even when the way is bumpy and the purpose sometimes forgotten. For example, if your personal vision includes living a long, healthy life, then perhaps one of your goals is to ride in a bike race or perhaps to be able to bike 100 km each week. And, if you are part of a group that organizes long bike rides on the weekends, this will help you achieve your vision. I think many of my classmates were surprised by the results of this activity. One of my personal reflections was how easy it was to identify my social identity groups in the era of social media. I could almost just go through the groups to which I belong and list them.

Which social identity groups do you belong to? Are they positive or negative for you? Are they helping you achieve your personal vision?

Cordially yours,



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