Like many values I've written about in the last 33 installments of
The Coach's Alphabet of Values, hospitality embodies many other values such as: welcoming, kindness, generosity, attention, safety, compassion, friendship, care, and service. It is such a significant and impactful value that I spent the last four years researching it for my doctoral dissertation -
The Psychology of Hospitality: Creating Welcoming and Inclusive Environments. That effort resulted in a 273 paper that examined hospitality from the perspective of mythology, theology, philosophy, literature, science, technology, politics, and commerce. Since I try to limit these blog posts to 600 words, I will sum up my findings by saying that hospitality is the mutual expectation and reciprocal responsibility to be nice, act honorably, and be willing to extend oneself on behalf of another.
Hospitality used to be understood as a sacred obligation and social mandate with which every citizen was charged to generously offer and graciously receive. But it seems that we have removed the primary duty of hospitality from the home, workplace, and community and outsourced it to the tourism and food industries where the onus is on paid professionals required to enhance customer satisfaction in order to generate a favorable Yelp review.
We have commoditized, commercialized, and according to George Ritzer,* McDonaldized hospitality, contributing to the "disenchantment, homogenization, and dehumanization" of society. Hostility, which shares the same root word, is the opposite of hospitality and has become much more prevalent in today's day-to-day interactions than in the past. A narcissistic and entitled attitude of "me first" is evident in the popularity of reality television which not only presents hostility as entertainment, but as an acceptable tone for normal communication and a seemingly necessary strategy in order to stand out from the crowd. A strategy that seems to have been adapted by many political leaders and pundits on both sides of the aisle who pride themselves on exemplifying American values and establishing the level of social discourse.
Now that so much of society is leaning towards the hostile side of the spectrum, I assert that the way to stand out from the crowd is to embrace and enact hospitality - seeing, hearing, and compassionately responding to others, making sure their needs are met, and creating situations in which they can best feel comfortable and achieve success.
I find it intriguing that one of the longest running and most successful advertising campaigns in America is for a Motel 6. Featuring a folksy spokesperson using his real name, each ad ends with, "I'm Tom Bodett for Motel 6 and we'll leave the light on for you." As a coach I not only get to shine a light on people's values, ambitions, and opportunities, but to help them re-ignite an inner light so that they will be more capable and willing to be kind, generous, and hospitable to those around them, as well as themselves. You don't need a coaching certification, a motel chain, or even a house or dinner guest to take on the role of a host, you just need the desire to turn the light of hospitality on for others and yourself.
The 13th Century Sufi Poet Rumi** wrote a poem titled,
Guest House (see full poem below) in which humanity is expressed by the ability and willingness to open ourselves to unexpected visitors, release that which we previously contained, and welcome whatever arrives. These are not easy tasks, but they can be simple. When you feel the shadow of hostility creeping in, shine a light on it and like all shadows it will magically disappear.