Paddling like the dickens in hospitality

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Paddling like the dickens in hospitality

British Actor Michael Caine has been quoted as saying:
“Be like a duck. Calm on the surface, but always paddling like the dickens underneath.”

This appears to be the mantra for almost every customer service industry, especially in the hospitality industry whereby it is not only expected of the staff to engage in such honne and tatemae (a Japanese cultural term for hiding one’s true feelings to put on a mask to avoid conflict) towards the customers, but also towards each other. We are taught to ‘leave our issues at the door’, but if our issues are stemming from work then where do we leave them while at work?

What many don’t see or experience is that back of house or even away from the customer’s table, that friendly demeanor can often sour very quickly. The pressure to keep everything behind a mask in front of others is often released like an exploding pressure cooker once back of house; the classic picture of a boiling head chef shouting and swearing is only just the tip of the iceberg in behaviours that are carried out to release the pressure.

What is the impact on the staff, customers, business and quality of all of this when hospitality workers, or anyone in a job that requires interactions with other people, are being forced to live a double life; one that shuns and hides their true feelings and sensitivities to the world? What is the impact on those same workers when they believe they don’t have the right or permission to allow themselves to be transparent?

As hospitality workers go through life believing that silencing and suffocating their feelings is the only way to be, it gives rise to an industry culture that strives and awards those who can maintain their mask the strongest while out at the coalface. Those who cannot are dismissed and rejected as more value is given to that surface performance than to what is truly going on underneath that cannot be ignored.

The very definition of hospitality is to provide a friendly and generous reception towards others but there can be no genuine loving and care in these interactions and relationships when the staff are 'paddling like the dickens underneath’. How can a product, service or dish be presented to the customer with care if those creating (and thereby imprinting) the end result are stressed, overwhelmed, hurt and living in and by coping mechanisms? And if those issues can’t be left at the door, is it possible that along with the meal the customer receives the ‘hospitality’ of a person’s undealt-with hurts, anxieties and emotions as the ‘special ingredient’; a secret recipe not by intention, but by the fact that we have little understanding of energetic integrity and the fact that the quality of the end result is a further magnification of the energy within us.

As Gabrielle Caplice and Natalie Benhayon have shared in their article on Energetic Integrity:

“Very simply, there are two types of energy that we can choose to express; either an energy that carries the quality of love, equality and harmony with all, which could be defined as a ‘good’ type of energy, or conversely, an energy that carries the quality of harm, imposition and separation, which could be defined as a ‘bad’ type of energy.”

Everything we do comes from and with energy and that energy has a certain quality to it – coming from what energy we are aligned to. If we are using recreational drugs then the quality with which we cook or serve a customer is laced with the effects (both physical and energetic) of those drugs. Similarly, if we live in a constant state of rush, tension and stress, the service we provide cannot help but pass that energy onwards. If we are living a life that is self-caring, and where we are connected to ourselves, then the quality of the energy we live and work in is naturally lovely.

Taking responsibility for your energetic integrity is a whole new ballgame, and comes from the understanding that the energy you choose to live in and with affects all you do. Your day-to-day choices contribute to the energetic quality you live with, and this in turn affects all you not only do, but all those you interact with.

The path to change from emotional outbursts, or stress, or suffocating your feelings to “look good in the eyes of the customer”, to actually feeling good (or even great!), vital and genuinely at ease, and taking that you to work, starts with small but very important steps. These steps build a foundation of you – the inner you that then develops the outer you.

  • Connection with yourself, conscious presence and awareness, can be built through starting with a development of the inner connection. The Gentle Breath Meditation is a superb way to build that connection

  • Look to include self-care into your daily rhythm. Small steps towards caring for yourself will make a huge difference to your daily demeanor

  • Consider your relationship with yourself – are you loving towards yourself, is there tenderness in how you treat yourself? If not, developing self-love is another step towards your inner connection

Rather than putting a lid on your issues or sensitivities until they boil over and explode, you can actually live without a lid and allow yourself to be the naturally loving and confident person you are. Knowing this you could then firmly stand there and claim that the dish has indeed been cooked and served ‘with love’.

When we start to feel what we are feeling, we start to understand life more, and when we start to take responsibility for the fact that our choices lead to how we feel, we can start to empower ourselves in how we want to be in the world that doesn’t require any mask or surface facade of grace.

Filed under

StressSelf-loveConnectionSelf-empowermentAnxietyShift work

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    By Leigh Matson

    A lover of exploring everyday life and what there is to be discovered each day. Waitress, cook, writer and so much more.

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    Photography: Diane Gillett