In his popular TED Talk, “Be a Hospitalian,” Bobby Stuckey, owner of the renowned Frasca restaurant in Boulder, Colorado, shares a humorous holiday story of trying to please one of his relatives while hosting Thanksgiving dinner:

Bobby’s talk highlights the critical difference between service (“what you do for a person”) and hospitality (“changing how a person feels”).

I love how Jan Gunnarson, Stanford business consultant and author of the book, Hostmanship, defines hospitality:

“The art of making people feel welcome, expected, and wished for in your presence….verses merely tolerated or accepted.”

Whether it’s serving customers in a 5-Star restaurant or hosting your neighbors for a small holiday gathering — while excellent service is important, authentic hospitality is the real difference-maker. Service is a skill, while hospitality is a spirit.

As many of us prepare to spend the holidays with family, Bobby’s message serves as a great reminder. There’s bound to be someone you’ll encounter this Christmas who rubs you the wrong way…   an opinionated grandparent, that crazy uncle, your know-it-all sister-in-law, or your cousin’s boyfriend who drives you crazy.

Being a “hospitalian” means presenting the best version of yourself whatever the circumstances may be — or, as Bobby says, “Looking out instead of looking in.”

It’s thinking of yourself less and putting others first–making them feel welcome, expected and wished for instead of simply tolerating them–even those who irritate us.

So this Christmas, take a cue from Bobby: Before the craziness begins, put aside your need for affirmation and gratitude and commit to becoming a “hospitalian.”

And if, at any point over the holidays, you’re tempted to slip back into the lesser version of yourself, get out your Bible, take a deep breath and let the true message of Christmas, the true story of God’s intervention into our world that brought new life, hope and unprecedented access to the Creator of the Universe, soften you:

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

What was your experience celebrating Christmas with family growing up? Was there tension or peace?

How has that impacted your approach to celebrating the upcoming Christmas holidays and family functions?

How can Bobby Stuckey’s message of hospitality help you enjoy the coming days?

I’d love to hear your feedback. And Merry Christmas!