Hostmanship – The Art of Making People Feel Welcome

by Robin Bush ISR Communications

Peter enters the room, scanning faces for anyone he might know, and sees a sea of strangers. Not naturally outgoing, he turns to leave when a young man walks up to him, extending his hand and introducing himself as Alex. He looks into Peter’s eyes and says, “Welcome; I’m glad you are here.”  Alex’s warmth and sincerity begins to melt Peter’s fear of being a stranger. Alex is curious and caring, and soon they begin to explore their different views on the important issue the group has gathered to discuss.

Think about what might change in the world if we all increase our efforts to help others feel welcome.

Jan Gunnarsson, a Swedish author, coined the word Hostmanship and offers these thoughts on what it is and the difference it might make in all our lives: “Imagine a world where people feel welcome and expected. A world where children, friends, strangers, guests, customers, and colleagues dare to and want to meet each other for real….this is the basis for true and lasting success for us as people, our businesses, and the places we live…Hostmanship is about wanting a welcoming world, where everyone feels expected and welcome, regardless of where or how they live in the world, be it today, tomorrow, or even years from now.”

He describes Hostmanship as commitment, believing that someone cares and is happy about your presence and you are happy about theirs, and feeling that everyone is important and valuable. How do we do that?   Hostmanship is expressed as a warm, heartfelt welcome. The starting point is the desire and curiosity to want to meet the other person. There are three stages to Hostmanship. The first is welcoming others, where everything we think, say, and do makes people with whom we do not have a close relationship feel welcome. The second is welcoming those with whom we share a close relationship – family, friends, colleagues, or those with whom we live (in our home, town, or country). The third is welcoming yourself – being able to welcome your thoughts, insights, self-esteem, and self-confidence. It’s seeing your value and understanding you have something to share. It is also respecting your body through good self-care.

How do we begin to cultivate Hostmanship? First, you might look at your Hostmanship skills. Can you see a stranger as a friend you don’t yet know? Can you see a colleague as someone who does things we don’t expect, just like we do? Can you see a guest through what ties you together more than what separates you? Can you see past apparent differences and respect another person?

It’s something to work toward patiently, understanding that we won’t always succeed at it. Sometimes circumstances and how we and others behave make Hostmanship a challenge. Our stress, fears, ego, and indifference also become obstacles. But we learn as we keep trying.

“Hostmanship is a state of mind. It is the attitudes and values that appear in our words and actions in our encounters and meetings with other people.” To express Hostmanship we can ask, ‘what can I do to make you feel better?’  Of course, it is unreasonable to feel responsible for everything that happens to everyone in the world. Still, Hostmanship means taking responsibility for how we choose to react to what happens. Do we take an event seriously? Do we blame someone else? Do we stay to learn or walk away? Do we stand shoulder to shoulder to help improve the world? Do we seek to learn new things constantly? “Knowledge is about opening up to all cultures and people, regardless of origin or background. Reading and understanding what the recipient understands, seeing what they see and staring there. Hostmanship is therefore very much about meeting people from their point of view and situation and taking in the whole person, with interest and true commitment, and thereafter answering the questions being asked. Knowledge is far more than just knowing. It is the ability to use your knowledge in the context of another person’s needs.”

Hostmanship is also about dialog. To enter into a dialog, you must first learn to listen. We often tend to debate and explain why the other person is wrong or why we are right. Instead, Hostmanship is about opening yourself to the conversation, seeing what is unique in everyone, and trying to find understanding within yourself.

Hostmanship creates meaning, joy, success, pride in others, and gratitude for everyone. “Hostmanship is when you forget what you have given and remember what you have received.”

During this holiday season and throughout the year, everyone at ISR is here to welcome you with outstretched hands. We are grateful for all you share with us along your life journey. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to all from our board, staff, and volunteers.


(Quotes are from the Hostmanship Development Group)