In another life, I must have been a cultural anthropologist. In this life, I have learned languages, and quickly made the connection between words and the cultural values behind them.

You discover a lot by exploring words from other cultures. Earlier this week I shared the meaning of the Italian word "Simpatico." The process of studying languages teaches us a few things in our ANGLO workplace. Imagine for the moment, warm tropical breezes. Now—let’s talk about the Hawaiian word “Aloha.”

“Oh, I’ve been to Hawaii and ‘Aloha’ means hello or goodbye," you tell me. Yes, on the surface, “Aloha” is a friendly greeting. But dig a little deeper, because the word is much more than that. In fact, “Aloha” embodies a way of living that goes beyond the translation of “good morning” or “hi.”

In talking with native Hawaiians, they tell me that “Aloha” is actually a way of treating others with deep care and respect. According to these folks, when you live the spirit of Aloha, you work to create positive feelings and thoughts. Aloha, therefore, is actually a philosophy—a way of behaving and thinking that demonstrates sharing, and being a part of all living things coming together. In other words, “Aloha” is MUCH more than a salutation.

When someone says “Aloha,” she is saying, “I am connected with you, and I will strive to think good feelings toward you.” And when you reply, “Aloha,” you’re telling this person that she can expect the same from you.

That’s pretty powerful. It is reminiscent of the Golden Rule, but embodies all living things, and brings in reciprocity of respect and connection.

Let’s add the concept of Aloha to all our communications. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Always assume good intent when you interact with people, and give them the benefit of the doubt.
  • Slow down and be in the moment. Don’t be rigidly locked into your future goals and what needs to be done today. Pause, as there are side paths to take. Remember, the relationship is more important than the task.
  • Listen to the emotion behind the words. Queen Lili’uokalani of Hawaii said, “To learn and understand what is not said, to see what cannot be seen, and to know the unknowable.”

What else can we do in the workplace to embody the spirit of Aloha?

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