Small and medium size businesses are the backbone of all Pacific Island cultures – without them the economy would not survive or thrive. In this series I look at different ways in which we can grow and develop our small businesses sustainably.

Today my focus is on the emotional aspect of resilience and our ability to bounce back from any crisis.

This series is all about developing and growing our small businesses in sustainable ways so that we can overcome or survive challenges as they arise. A key aspect of sustainability is resilience – the ability to recover quickly from difficulties. Resilience requires us to be mentally and emotionally tough. In this article I will explore a few key elements of resilience.

It is hard to predict what difficulties might arise. True, in the Pacific we can expect weather related events on a regular basis and, over the last 2 plus years, we have all come to know about pandemics. Difficulties might be more personal – loss of a loved one, ill-health, stress, financial loss, family breakdown and so on. As we do not know exactly what is likely to happen, we need to prepare ourselves to be as strong as we can mentally and emotionally in order to cope with whatever comes our way.

Resilience requires high levels of self-confidence. Self-confidence is about the extent to which you believe in yourselves and your ability to be proactive — to take control of your lives. If you have been brought up in self-confident families and communities then this will probably not be a problem. However, if you have not learned to be self-confident as a child then it will require a lot of practice and support from trusted friends and mentors.

Assertive behaviour requires high levels of self-confidence. Assertive people will always express themselves and say what is on their mind and, at the same time, will always allow and encourage others to do the same. Aggressive people are only interested in what they have to say, and not in listening to others, and passive people will rarely say anything – both are expressions of low levels of confidence.

Confidence and assertiveness can be developed with practice. Seek the help of a trusted friend or coach. Just imagine the impact on your children as you become more confident and assertive parents! Learning to say ‘no’ in a culturally acceptable way is a major challenge and is essential to a sustainable future.

Empathy helps you to be resilient because it helps you understand things from someone else’s point of view. Empathetic people do their best to see the world through the eyes of others – they put themselves in other people’s shoes. To be empathetic you need to communicate very well – you must seek to understand (by asking questions and listening/ observing) before being understood (by talking). Remember you have two ears for listening, two eyes for observing and only one mouth for speaking!

A positive approach to life is an essential aspect of resilience. If you can only see the problems, the challenges, the reasons why things will not work then it is highly unlikely that you will have the resilience to overcome diversity. You are more likely to look for others to blame! Imagine two identical glasses standing side by side each with exactly the same amount of water up to the half-way mark. What is the difference between the two? The answer, of course, is that there is no difference – they are exactly the same. The difference lies in your approach to the glasses. Confident people will always see the glasses as half-full so, whatever the challenge, they are already half-way there to a solution!

The more you grow in confidence, the more assertive you are, the more you develop an empathetic approach then you will be developing your own high level of emotional intelligence.

Simply, this means that you understand your emotional reactions to anything or anybody. If you understand them then you can manage them and harness them for good. Once you do that, you can help others around you to do the same.

Obviously whenever a crisis happens, we all experience a range of emotions – fear, anxiety, stress, panic, anger, sadness, helplessness and so on. By developing our own emotional intelligence we will still experience these feelings but we will be able to understand them better and then work out personal strategies to keep moving forward. In other words, we will be resilient people.

Resilience is knowing that you are the one that has the power and responsibility to pick yourself up.

Please contact me if you would like to discuss these issues further or need support. Next week I will focus in more detail on the part customers play in ensuring sustainability of our small businesses.

If you have any other suggestions or any questions or comments, please contact me.

Breadfruit Consulting ( is a Vanuatu-based business providing advice, training, coaching, and mentoring to businesses throughout the Pacific islands. Breadfruit specialises in a range of business development activities including ‘business continuity planning and action’, helping businesses to survive in a crisis, designing and starting new, sustainable businesses. Contact or