Fresh out of college — knowing lots — but also true, not knowing what I didn’t know — I had the distinct privilege of establishing my HR career in the hospitality industry in southeast Florida. It was an excellent, stretching, life-changing experience, learning to do life with truly diverse people groups. I learned to manage, to motivate, to live with and learn from. That’s with people of varied ethnicity, education, income, intelligence, sexuality, nationality, you-name-it. No doubt the hotel is a diverse place. It was here that I only began to learn what hospitality really was.
Years later now I continue to gain insight. And I’m thinking that hospitality might be the one thing that would make all things better. Let’s face it… take even a tiny glance at those right track/wrong track polls; it doesn’t take anywhere near a rocket scientist to discern that the clear majority of us wish for society/culture/etc. to be far better.
What if hospitality held the key… if it made all better… and if we really knew what it was…
When defining hospitality, we speak of something a little bit other than the quickest meaning we conjure up, that being the business of providing food, drink, and accommodations for one’s paying clientele. The included idea of provision resonates, though. And true, we did that quite well in our numerous, luxury-oriented hotel properties.
We also speak of something a little bit other than the idea of “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” Granted, the word “friendly” seems relevant. “Generous,” too. And while we’re at it, let’s not miss the noteworthy inclusion of strangers. Strangers are people we don’t really know… even if we think we do.
So let’s put all of the above together…
Hospitality is the consistent kindness toward friends and strangers alike.
Let me rephrase: hospitality means treating all people — known or unknown — with generous kindness and warmth.
But there’s a problem. We each oft justify omitting singular words and then fool ourselves into thinking we’re still somehow hospitable.
Maybe we omit “generous.” Maybe it’s the “kindness” or “warmth.” Maybe “unknown” — after all, if we don’t really know them. Or maybe, too, “consistent”… maybe even “all.”
… consistent treatment… to all people…
I get it. Some people are harder for us to be kind to than others. And sometimes we really just don’t understand how another thinks. But that makes sense; the more we get close to people, the more we’ll see things — behaviors and beliefs — that just don’t makes sense to us. Our story is different. Our experience is different.
But not making sense is not license for forgoing hospitality.
To be consistent, to be consistently kind, to all, what if we changed the way we responded when we don’t understand the story and experience that’s different?
Instead of responding to what we don’t understand with all those unhealthy, voluntary reactions — ie. anger, judgment, and offense — what if we first learned to pause? To be still? To buy us a bit of time to be who and what’s wisest?
“Time for what?” one logically asks.
Time to be curious.
Follow me here for a brief moment.
I heard a wise man speak on hospitality — the idea being bigger than that food and drink and frolicking business sector. He talked about how hospitality diffuses hostility. And one of the ways that happens so simply yet profoundly, powerfully and effectively, occurs when we’re confronted with a behavior or belief that we don’t understand.
Instead of reacting, be curious. Be curious — not furious.
Ask about what we don’t understand. Ask some more.
Yes, let’s be better. Let’s be a truly hospitable people.