As we go about our lives with yet another New Year’s routine, making resolutions (breaking them already) or, like me, not making any at all, here’s one to think about: ‘Speaking up’ with empathy.
So on the note of speaking up, any guesses on how many languages other than English are spoken in the United States? If you said 80 (which seems like a lot!), you missed it only by about 300 more. Yes, there are 381 languages spoken in the United States and, in fact, 1 out of every 5 individuals speak a language other than English in their home.
In traveling all over the country, I have observed a few things:
With every passing day we continue to grow more diverse, yet more connected.
With every passing day, the United States population continues to reflect the United Nations.
With every passing day, more and more schools, hospitals, restaurants, retail stores and Government agencies serve the 40.8 million immigrants that live here.
With every passing day, even more people globally uproot themselves to move to the United States.
With every passing day, the ones who uprooted themselves plant roots, find jobs, go to school, become homeowners, shop locally and visit parks, playgrounds and community centers.
With every passing day, these very parks, playgrounds, trails and community centers witness joyous screams in over 100 languages.
With every passing day, we preach the critical importance of customer service in building our brand
With every passing day, we go to more best-practice conferences such as Brand+Aid to learn ‘how to…’
And yet…with every passing day our marketing, messaging and customer service continues to be oblivious to this vast audience that’s in the linguistic (and cultural) shadows
Million Dollar Question
What if I told you that just two phrases can help you build bridges and break down barriers, not only with the millions of people in the United States but anywhere in the world? How about ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank You’ which are probably two of the most spoken phrases in the world. I have validated this with a very scientific study based entirely on my personal and subjective experiences visiting, living or working on five continents from Australia to Brazil, China to Greece and from India to Indiana. Just a simple greeting in someone else’s language has routinely made strangers crack a smile and often go above and beyond to help me out.
This inspired me to start the BOLO initiative (short for Bonjour, HOLa and HellO) which encourages people to make a difference simply by learning to say hello and thank you in another language.
BOLO was featured as the Opening Session for TEDx, a global platform for ideas worth sharing (Click here to see the TEDx video) and has been the subject of customer service training / culture building and business best practice teachings in agencies and universities respectively all over the United States.
From a professional standpoint, imagine the customer focused culture you can build, if every single person treated customers with empathy and embraced the BOLO initiative in their daily lives. From a personal standpoint, imagine what a difference you can make in the world around you, simply by being more humane and learning to greet or thank people in their own language. For now…don’t just imagine. Go ahead and make a difference!
What You Can Do:
Nothing…check your Facebook newsfeed or go back to watching YouTube videos of cycling rats
Share the TEDx Video and encourage more people to embrace this empathetic approach
Take the BOLO pledge on www.letssayhello.com and learn to say Hello and Thank You in at least one more language
Share your story on www.letssayhello.com to let the world know how this simple act made a difference in your personal or professional experiences