I usually start my holiday shopping in early November, way before there is any chance of getting trampled to save a dollar, and no worries that they’ll run out of gift boxes. I go out of my way to buy thoughtful presents for each person on my list, something I know they will love and put to good use.
Last year, however, I realized that what I wanted most from those I love is more time with them- and figured others might feel the same way. Life is so hectic, and although we have the best intentions of grabbing lunch, or taking a run with our close friends, or visiting family we haven’t seen in a while, something always comes up and takes our attention someplace else.
So instead of buying my friends presents, I treated them to pedicures where we could sit, side by side, and catch up on all that we’ve been missing in each other lives. They were surprised, and more grateful for ten polished toes and a few laughs than anything I’d ever given them before. Instead of exchanging presents with my dad and his wife, we all invested in a week together in Mexico- because those memories are priceless.
My boys got concert and sporting event tickets, and my husband and I treated ourselves to a weekend away. I know that the joy we all got out of the EXPERIENCE was much more than anything MATERIAL could have brought on… yes, even if it was wrapped in a little blue box.
I learned from my teacher many years ago, that to give someone your full attention and your time, to make them feel heard and loved- that is something you can’t buy, no matter how much money you have; yet it’s the greatest give you can give.
Don’t have the resources to take a friend to lunch, or your husband to a Knick’s game? No worries, taking the time to actively listen to another person is just as good- and yes, even if it’s your snarky Aunt Sally on Christmas.
How do you give someone your full attention and listen?
The first one is obvious, yet increasingly hard in this day and age:
Pay Attention: Focus completely on the person who is speaking to you, look them in the eye, avoid being distracted by thoughts or your electronic gadgets; most of all- don’t start thinking about your return comment- just listen.
Show Them You’re Listening: So the person doesn’t think you’re boring them to death, give them clues that you’re interested in what they are saying by giving them a little nod, a smile, or a “yes,” “Okay.”
Respond: This one is tricky, as it sometimes can turn into a judgement, or you telling a long personal story trying to relate to what they just told you. Instead of turning the conversation around, reflect on what they just shared, ask a few questions, and then only if they’ve asked, provide your opinion or feedback.
I hope your holidays are filled with extra time for friends and family; spent creating memories that will last longer than a selfie on Instagram.