The mortality rate for newborns in East Africa is staggering because there are very few facilities where pregnant women can safely deliver.  A few summers back, I lead a group of volunteers to Mwanza, Tanzania to help build a birthing center at a local hospital.

During the two weeks we were there helping with construction, we toiled for long hours alongside dedicated Tanzanians. When we ran into snags in the building process such as power outages and a lack of tools and supplies, the locals would smile at our frustrations and simply say, “pole sana.”

Sana means “very.”  However, pole  (POE-lee) cannot be directly translated into English. There is no single word in our language that fully captures its meaning.

Pole roughly means, “I see you are going through a difficult experience and I honor your ability to resolve it.”

More than ever, modern business is based on compassion and pole is the essence of true compassion–compassionate detachment.

In our culture, we confuse compassion with regret.  Americans will typically say, “I’m sorry” when someone is having a problem.  Conversely, Tanzanians understand that within each problem is an opportunity to grow and to discover new and wondrous opportunities so they would never express sorrow that a person is going through a difficult time. Rather, they affirm the person’s capacity to move through the issue.

Imagine how your work and personal life would transform if you simply acknowledged other people’s challenges and affirmed their ability to successfully resolve them.

Compassionate Detachment offers the opportunity to stand firmly in
 strength and to call forth the strength of others.

Although the word pole is not part of our language, you can practice its meaning thereby empowering yourself and others, “I see you are going through a difficult experience and I honor your ability to resolve it.”