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Embracing Communication: Understanding Boundaries in a Pasifika Context

In our daily interactions, misunderstandings and conflicts are bound to arise.

by Joey Nanai  I    17th August 2023


It's natural to feel upset when someone does something that we didn't explicitly tell them not to do. However, when it comes to Pasifika cultural contexts, it's important to approach these situations with empathy and understanding. In this blog, we will explore the idea that we can't get upset with someone who did something we didn't tell them they couldn't do, focusing on Pasifika examples and how this concept applies to the workplace.

The Power of Communication:

Communication is the key to building strong relationships and avoiding unnecessary conflicts. In Pasifika cultures, communication is often indirect, relying on non-verbal cues and shared understandings. While this can foster a sense of unity and harmony, it can also lead to misunderstandings when expectations are not explicitly communicated.

Pasifika Examples:

Let's consider a scenario where a colleague borrows your personal belongings without asking for permission. In a Western context, this might be seen as a breach of boundaries and cause for upset. However, in Pasifika cultures, the emphasis is often placed on communal sharing and generosity. The colleague may have assumed that borrowing your belongings was acceptable without explicitly seeking permission.

Renowned Pasifika writer, Albert Wendt, once said, "In our culture, we share everything, and sometimes that includes things we don't even realize we're sharing." This quote highlights the importance of understanding the cultural nuances that shape our interactions. Instead of getting upset, it is crucial to engage in open dialogue to establish clear boundaries and expectations.

Applying it to the Workplace:

In the workplace, this concept becomes even more relevant for Pasifika employees. They may find themselves in situations where their colleagues unknowingly cross boundaries due to cultural differences. It is essential for Pasifika employees to express their needs and expectations clearly, ensuring that their colleagues understand their boundaries.

Renowned Pasifika businesswoman, Theresa Gattung, once said, "Communication is the key to personal and career success." This quote emphasizes the significance of effective communication in the workplace. By openly discussing boundaries and expectations, Pasifika employees can foster a more inclusive and understanding work environment.

Parting Ways with Toxic Situations:

Sometimes, despite our efforts to communicate our boundaries, we may find ourselves in toxic situations. It is crucial to recognize when a relationship or environment is detrimental to our well-being. In these instances, it is essential to prioritize our mental health and part ways with the toxic situation.

Pasifika poet, Selina Tusitala Marsh, once wrote, "I am the sea, I am the ocean, I am the reason you breathe." This quote reminds us of our inherent worth and the importance of surrounding ourselves with positive influences. By letting go of toxic situations, we create space for growth and healthier relationships.

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In the Pasifika context, it's important to approach conflicts with empathy and understanding. Instead of getting upset with someone who did something we didn't explicitly tell them they couldn't do, we should focus on open communication and establishing clear boundaries. By embracing effective communication, both in personal and professional settings, we can foster understanding, respect, and harmony within our communities. As we navigate the complexities of cultural differences, let us remember the words of our Pasifika role models and strive for open dialogue, empathy, and growth.

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