The best way to support yourself is by supporting others.
Create an inviting space centered on respect and passion and watch you and your business thrive.
Have you ever had a bad experience with a business or service you were receiving? Odds are the answer is yes. Maybe you felt isolated and ignored by your server at a new restaurant, maybe you over-scheduled yourself and missed an important meeting, or maybe plans that have been set for a long time were postponed last-minute. Regardless of what specific situation is adding stress to your day, our world is filled with so much unpredictability it’s unavoidable. In fact, the one thing you can be certain of in life is that it’s unpredictable, so you have to be prepared. This phenomenon isn’t exclusive to personal life and often seeps into business practices. You’ve probably experienced unpredictability in the workplace either as a business leader or as a client and, if the experience is unstable enough, can leave a lasting impact on your relationships with that business, customer, industry, or person. As a business owner, these experiences can be detrimental in your practice. But if uncertainty is guaranteed (to some degree), how can these experiences be avoided? Simple. Prepare for the unexpected ahead of time.
This is a principle easier said than done, but it’s not impossible to equip yourself with the right tools and ideas to be able to overcome all kinds of challenges. In an effort to help people develop the skills they need to construct a rich, productive, and comfortable environment as a host or business in hospitality, I created an informational series to address key ideas, steps, and actions to take. This series, Creating an Elevated Environment, is all about producing a space that cultivates connection in the hospitality industry and in life. These connections are the cornerstone of an industry centered on the people you serve, and in order to form healthy, positive connections and interactions, you have to construct the right environment. The atmosphere around you, your business, your clients, and your staff can determine the effectiveness of your business strategies and your success as a whole. Since this environment is so important, you have to be aware of how behaviors, actions, and beliefs you hold will impact each unique experience.
In order to prepare for unexpected hurdles, you have to create an open, comfortable, and balanced environment. As a business leader, there is an inherent power imbalance in every business-client relationship. Both parties are subconsciously aware of this fact and it can have detrimental effects on the services you provide or the relationship you have with your clients. The same idea can be applied to the relationship between business leaders and staff. In a highly-competitive industry climate, business owners often view the situation in terms of, “I have a set of specially cultivated skills and clients and customers come to me because they want and need what I have to offer, therefore, I hold the power in this relationship.” To some degree, this is true. As a business, regardless of industry, you possess skills, products, or services that most people on average do not have on their own. When taking off your ‘business-owner’ hat and stepping into the shoes of a consumer, what do you expect out of products and services you seek out? Do you appreciate value, patience, and respect from businesses? Odds are, you don’t want to be taken advantage of by businesses just because of your position as the consumer. Many consumers may perceive their relationship with business and services conversely to how businesses approach the situation. “I am providing the compensation for services, therefore my thoughts, needs, and wants should be prioritized.”
Both of these perspectives hold a significant amount of truth to them, however, they can be harmful to forming relationships with clients and even staff in the long run. Both of these approaches represent a power imbalance in business-consumer relationships that dictates the quality and limitations of services being provided. Businesses hold special skills, products, and knowledge, whereas consumers hold the demand and compensation of labor. Both parties are dependent on one another to meet their goals and succeed, so why should either go about business any other way? Instead of perpetuating this unequal relationship, we should approach it in terms of, “I have a unique set of skills that can help a client achieve their goals and they have what I need to achieve mine. How can I work with this client to meet both of our needs to the fullest?”
As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to take the first step in facilitating this relationship. Your clients will respond to you based on the environment you’ve created with your business. This also goes for staff, as well. There are many ways to craft this environment, and the first step is to change the way you interact and perceive your clients and staff. Instead of seeing them as something that is dependent on you in which you hold power over, or that you are dependent on that holds power over you, view the relationship as a mutual agreement. Equal footing for both parties suggests mutual support that opens the door to a cooperative and creative environment. Facilitating this kind of environment is what is going to provide you with better interactions with others at a higher frequency, but it will also create a space where clients and staff can work with you cooperatively to overcome any unexpected issues or speed bumps that are bound to come up. By creating a supportive and open environment, you and your business will thrive in times of success and distress alike. Like many of the teachings in this series, these principles and practices are not only applicable to business. The same philosophies can be integrated into your life in other ways, too. For example, if you’re wanting to form a stronger, closer, and more rewarding relationship with your spouse, creating an environment of mutual respect and support, using the same methods that I’m sharing here can help you achieve that. Same goes for relationships with friends, family, kids, or even your relationship with yourself.
The methods in this series and the practical steps for creating an open and comfortable environment are easy to comprehend, versatile, and accessible for people in any field and any situation. One of the most effective ways to help create this space is by expressing your love openly.
Expressing Your Love Openly
Setting precedents for success through mutual respect and support.
A balanced, open, and supportive environment is quintessential to positive-consumer interactions. But how do you create this environment? Well, we’ve talked about the various perceptions of business-consumer relationships that deeply impact the way each party engages with one another, but this isn’t the only thing that impacts the environment as a whole. By zooming in on the way you interact with clients and staff, we can start to apply seemingly small behaviors and areas of focus to your practice. I will outline key action steps to create an environment of mutual respect and support and explain their significance to reaching your goals. Afterward, we will take another look at the big picture to see just how much the environment has changed.
Before we get into those action steps, let’s break down the main idea. What does “expressing your love openly” mean? It doesn’t mean you should allow PDA in the workplace, but it does mean you should be actively developing strong connections with clients and staff. Love comes in many forms, and when you really get down to it, everybody just wants to be loved and accepted. It’s not just in the romantic arena that we can observe this theory, but in nearly every aspect of our lives. In order to rationalize this concept, you have to look at love through a non-romantic lens. Let’s frame the idea of ‘love’ as a representation of support. Researchers have found that people that experience significant moments of love throughout the day felt an improved sense of well-being. To put this idea into context, imagine going to your favorite coffee shop before work to get a morning pick-me-up before the tough day ahead. You woke up a few minutes late and had to skip breakfast to shave time off your commute. You have a stressful meeting later in the day that’s been weighing on you all week, and you need an extra dose of caffeine to help energize you to stay motivated for it. While you’re ordering, the barista can tell you’re not in the best headspace, gives you a sincere smile, and hands you your coffee on the house. “Don’t worry about it,” they say, “have a good day.” As you make your way to the office, your tension lifts ever so slightly and for a moment you felt seen, heard, and understood by someone else.
This is an example of a love experience in everyday life. It happens all the time to people all around the world every day, and every time it happens, connections are made between strangers. Those connections may be fleeting, but they don’t have to be. You may return to that coffee shop every morning, learn the name of the barista, and form a friendship with them. Someone does not necessarily have to be experiencing a stressful day to appreciate moments of love, and it can be just as impactful for people having a positive day. Regardless of the circumstance, these moments are important and impactful to people’s lives and well-beings.
Framing this new understanding of love in a hospitality-oriented context makes forming connections more special and easier to do. If we know that these love experiences are effective for bettering the mood of other people and building strong connections, purposefully incorporating behaviors to create love experiences is the next step to creating an environment of mutual support. Learning how to accomplish this may feel awkward or inorganic at first, but with practice, you will notice how much it affects your business practice. It will eventually become second nature and relationships between you, your clientele, and your staff will become much more balanced and cooperative over time.
Action Steps for Expressing Love Openly
What you can do to build stronger connections.
What inspired me to share these ideas and teachings is what I observed and experienced while attending a church event. I came across a program that outlined key behaviors and practices for church staff during events that prioritized the safety, well-being, and comfort of guests. As an entrepreneur in the hospitality industry, this is what I strive to do every day. I live to serve others and will take every opportunity to improve myself so that I can be a better asset to the people I serve. This program gave me insight into an aspect of hospitality I hadn’t paid close attention to in the past that, now looking back, may have been improved if I’d implemented these action steps. I mentioned before that it’s the responsibility of the business owner in hospitality to initiate the tone of the interaction with clients and support their needs. I also believe when anyone is giving advice, it’s important to provide tangible ways to implement those teachings in real life immediately, otherwise the advice isn’t very applicable. That’s why I created this series, so that I can provide context and steps to take to achieve a better environment to help you and your clients achieve your goals. In this case, there are a number of ways to express your love openly, to support your clients and staff, and to create a cooperative environment.
Non-Physical Points of Contact
Our brains take in so much information at any given moment. We are constantly processing our environment. The sounds, smells, tastes, objects, colors, words, everything that surrounds us is often processed in our subconscious rather than at the forefront of our thought processes, but it still has an immense impact in the way we interact with the people and things around us. Considering the hospitality industry, all of these things need to be curated to ensure the best possible client experience. That’s why we spend so much time, money, and effort on decorating spaces, training staff, and more. This is all part of creating an elevated environment for you, your clients, and your staff, but let’s break it down even further. Instead of focusing on the external space, we will direct our attention to the metaphysical space that we share with others. This is the same dynamic we observed in experiences of love, the connection that is established between two people and deeply impacts their interactions with one another.
Taking a moment to examine your body language during conversations with clients and staff can be an incredibly beneficial activity as a business leader, especially in the hospitality industry. Body language is a field studied heavily in the psychology and sociology fields, but it’s an incredible asset to business owners, too.
When speaking with a client or an employee, how close or how far are you from that person? Are you invading personal space, or are you distancing yourself from being near them? Where are your shoulders aimed? Are your arms and hands clasped, folded, or resting at your sides or in your lap? Are your feet pointed toward the person you are speaking to or toward an exit? All of these seemingly inconsequential aspects of your posture actually communicate a great deal to whomever you’re having a conversation with. Sporting a more reserved, closed off posture with limbs pointed away from the person you’re talking to tells their subconscious brain that you are not interested in them. That, in turn, can impact the way they communicate with you, too. They might be more hesitant to move forward on a project or you may notice more moments of disagreement with them. And if you’re aware of these behaviors, you can observe them in the moment. Whether you’re manually checking your own body language or observing theirs, it can help you to understand and manage communication and relationships in real time. If you notice the employee you’re speaking to shuffling anxiously with darting eye movements, maybe it’s time to examine why they feel uncomfortable speaking with you or about that particular topic.
Another really crucial non-physical point of contact is the regulation of eye contact during conversation. For the most part, people like a healthy dose of eye contact. Making eye contact at specific times during your conversations can help to move the relationship you’re forming much further along than if you were to have the same conversation whilst looking away from each other. This is a manifestation of experiences of love that can be easier to understand. If you are communicating your wants and needs to a business, having that business provider look you in the eye while assuring you that they value your input will leave you feeling heard, respected, and valued. This is what you want to facilitate with your clients and even with your staff. Or, if you’re striving to strengthen relationships in other areas of your life, eye contact is one of the best ways to communicate to the other person, “I am listening to you and I value what you have to say.”
Another key way of acknowledging the other person’s concerns and words is by showing signs of attention. Nodding along while they are speaking, smiling when appropriate, and mirroring body language are all ways that subconsciously tell others that you are in tune with them.
Using knowledge of these things is a great asset to anyone hoping to build stronger relationships with other people from the get go. These behaviors occur whether you realize it or not, but being aware of them can help you to manage them and communicate the things that will help your relationship grow. Using more inviting non-verbal body language is a great way to get other people to open up, build a connection, and feel supported in your company. This is precisely what you are looking for in the long run and it’s information worth revisiting in the future.
Points of Physical Contact
Another useful way to communicate support without using words is through physical contact. Mastering this can be a bit more tricky than the non-physical communication we just discussed. A lot of people are less accepting of physical contact, especially from strangers, so it’s up to you to learn how to read a room or a situation and determine whether it would be appropriate or acceptable to initiate any physical contact.
Of course, physical love is a love language that many people prefer as a means to express their love. That means they feel close proximity and physical connections like holding hands and hugs are the most effective means of communicating compassion and support. But, odds are, you won’t be hugging every single client. Instead, opting for a much more subtle form of physical connection can be just as effective as mirroring body language and strong eye contact.
A small framing of the shoulder or elbow while thanking a person or reassuring them of something is a great way of letting that person know, “I appreciate you,” or “I’m here to support you.” This kind of physical support is really impactful to some people, but it can be difficult to determine if people would be open to it at first. Over time, you’ll learn to spot people that will benefit the most from it much more easily. Respecting their space is just as important as showing support through physical touch, so do not feel like you absolutely have to interact with every person the same way. Every relationship is just as unique as the person you’re interacting with. If you can show them you value that uniqueness in the way you communicate (spatially, physically, and verbally), that will help to propel a stronger relationship.
Aside from the non-verbal forms of communication, what you say to other people is probably the most important way of communicating. What you say matters, so don’t mess it up! Being clear, concise, and accessible in the language you use (meaning don’t use a bunch of convoluted, academic words to show off) is the most respectful and genuine way of letting others know that you are passionate about speaking with them.
Something that I learned from the church pamphlet I mentioned before is how to make guests and clients, and even staff, feel appreciated through words. When you are waving off a client you met for the first time, or even one you’re seeing for the last time after you’ve accomplished the task you set out to do, combining all of the things you’ve learned from this guide will help you establish a long-lasting connection. If you’re wanting to help others feel heard, seen, loved, and appreciated by you and your business, use your knowledge of verbal, non-verbal, and physical communication to your advantage. Mirror their movements, make eye contact, maybe even make a small and supportive physical gesture like a handshake or resting your hand on their shoulder, and be particular about the words you speak. There are a variety of phrases to use, but here are a few I’ve found that really leave people feeling closer and more open with you.
“We love doing business with people like you.”
“You make our job so much fun!”
“I wish all of our clients were as enjoyable as you.”
“Thank you for letting us serve you.”
“I’ve loved working with you.”
These are only a few examples, but finding the right words to show people that they are important to you is vital to forming those bonds that will make your business work for you. This type of language, which centers the positive reinforcement of the experience on that individual, makes people feel respected and important. You want them to feel like they brought something to the table, and that they did something right. People want to feel loved, and if you help them, they will love you in return. Not in a sappy way, but in a way that is very beneficial to you.
Serve Your People.
They will repay you for it.
Building these relationships is a huge part of creating an open and supportive environment in your business. It’s through these relationships that you will find the most recruitment and advertisement, and it’s free! The best advertisement you’ll ever get is through the referrals of people that loved the work you did together. They tell all their friends; they post it on their social media; they post it on their blogs, and suddenly, you’re working in a network of friends and family through those clients. Their recommendations hold a lot of weight, especially in the hospitality industry, so creating the right environment for them to feel supported and respected will help to determine the longevity and efficiency of your business.
I hope you learned a few things from this evaluation and that you are able to take these skills into the real world for real results. Remember, all of these ideas are not exclusive to business and can be applied to any area of life. My goal with this series is to promote best practices for anyone looking to grow their business and better their life by creating elevated environments. This is only the beginning of this series and there are a lot of other ideas and skills I plan on sharing to help you. Up next, we will be looking at how to make yourself a more likeable person and how it can impact your business practices. If you’re interested in learning more, keep an eye out for new topics that will be added to the series introductory article with every update.
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