By Asma Stephan
On a recent trip to O’ahu, I saw firsthand how Hawaiians have a brighter outlook on life, and this was most apparent in the service industry. Perhaps this positive attitude is due to the non-stop sunshine or crystal-blue water. Or maybe everyone just feels more upbeat while wearing a floral Aloha shirt. Whatever the reason, the Hawaii spirit is contagious.
My family stayed in Waikiki, arguably one of the most touristy spots in Hawaii. (Maybe the world?) Even among the congested, jostling crowds, the locals managed to keep their warm, personable attitude when interacting with demanding tourists. I call this their “Aloha Attitude,” and it consists of three essential characteristics.
Within a few days, I started to wonder if Hawaii was in the middle of a smiling contest. I’m not saying that everything is rainbows and sprinkles all the time—but positivity permeated the island. A warm hello, eye-contact, a genuine smile. I always felt welcomed when I was asking for assistance or a favor—I never felt like I was a bother or imposing. That set the tone of our interactions and made them more pleasant!
More than once while in Hawaii, I was asked: “Where are you from?” And the people asking were incredibly busy waiters, shop clerks, and tour guides. I appreciated that they took the time to learn a little something about me, and in turn, I was eager to get to know them. What would normally have been a straightforward transaction—ordering a meal, buying a souvenir, asking for directions—was an opportunity to build a connection. Over time, I felt connected to a little community, and got to know, to some small degree, the people who worked around Waikiki.
So many of the people we talked to seemed genuinely invested in us having a great vacation. Often they would share their passionate recommendations for the best beaches, restaurants, shave ice, and more. Often, the recommendations were unsolicited, assuming we would need advice and not waiting for us to ask for it. I recall a maintenance technician in our rental recommended over 12 breakfast spots, and when my dad said he loved pancakes, he mentioned a spot with Red Velvet pancakes that were to die for. He could have just come in, fixed our AC and left, but he wanted to make sure we had a great trip. He clearly felt a lot of pride for his hometown, and it showed.
The Aloha Attitude isn’t limited to Hawaii. In fact, embodying this attitude when interacting with customers can give agents, service reps and anyone in the service industry an edge. Cultivating positivity, community and an investment in your customers will certainly lead to more happy interactions.
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