There are three things I admired most about the Haitian people: Tolerance, Patience, and Resilience.
Today, I’ll address the subject of Tolerance, and in later posts pick-up on Patience and Resilience.
Tolerance, generally regarded as a virtue, meaning “to allow,” “to put up with,” especially with regard to situations, ideas or issues. It is also, one of those hot buzz words often used in cultural debates, is one of the most important issues today in Haiti, especially after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck that neighbouring peninsula on January 12, 2010.
It’s no easy feat driving or walking on the streets in the City of Port-au-Prince, especially in the commercially driven, Jam-packed area of Petionville, where you have traffic and pedestrian-jam every two or three minutes, day and night.
Often times, I just stood by and watched how remarkably tolerant those people were of each other. The most you’ll hear by way of frustration is the blaring of motor vehicle horns, especially the bike-taxis as they skillfully weave their way through vehicle and people (pedestrians and peddlers) traffic along narrow and pot-hole surfaced roads and streets. In the midst of this seemingly confusing mix of people and traffic, I found it strange not hearing anyone cursing or berating each other for blocking their path or causing unnecessary traffic jams snarls.
Another way in which the Haitians showed resilience was how they seemingly “put up” with their leaders and international community’s snail-pace action towards the reconstruction process.
There are thousands of earthquake survivors living in several tent cities (what some Haitian’s called “refugee camps”) – in and on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. You can also find tent cities in Jacmel, some 2.5 hours drive south-east of Port-au-Prince.
What made it even more remarkable was the fact that six months after the earthquake, not one Haitian survivor has so far been provided with proper housing. The only thing that the authorities seem to be doing is shuffling the people from one tent city to another, much like a deck of cards. Yet still, very few people seem to complain about their conditions (lack of housing and sanitation), but somehow, happily go about their business hoping, against all hope, that somehow good sense will eventually prevail.
Even though I really admired that, the situation however begs the question: How long will this continue before the people revolt, or some dreadful epidemic breaks out among the people?
Notwithstanding what is currently happening in Haiti, and the showing of the people’s remarkable resolve in tolerating unfortunate their situation, I couldn’t wondering how tolerant we are as entrepreneurs in our business, especially towards our clients and customers.
As an entrepreneur, I have to exercise tolerance at all the times. For example, nothing sucks the life blood out of you and your business quicker than chasing the wrong kind of customers (I love to call them the tire-kickers) – customers that would probably never buy your products or contract your services in the first place, but do a great job appearing to be interested yet nevertheless, wastes your time.
In situations like this, tolerance does help. Most importantly, it helps you get rid of tire-kickers easier than you might realize. You see, the way to get rid of these people is to first put yourself in their place, then switch advertising, marketing, prospecting and selling from being an unwelcome pest to welcome guest; from hunter of prey to attractor of respectful customers and clients. By being tolerant, you change the entire sales dynamic. I met a few of those, but I somehow have learned how to “put up” with them without burning my bridges. Sometimes, some of these tire-kickers do turn-out to be your best clients or customers.
Many business people have a big problem doing that. However, in the face of losing business and people wasting your time, it’s good to exercise tolerance – be free-spirited, smile, be kind, consider it only small stuff, because a lot of that came from you not having any judgments or biases about people’s state of mind, conditions or what they think about you and your business.
So, back to the Haitians! They taught me much about feeling accepted, respected and valued. Despite the mountain of problems that face them, my hosts treat me like a Haitian King. And one of the virtues that allow them to do this is TOLERANCE.
PS: If you’d like to share you comments on this post – either about your experience in Haiti, or how you exercise tolerance in your business, I look forward to what you have to say.