Four Simple Gifts You Can Give to Create a Wonderful Holiday Season
by Dana Bristol-Smith

As we enter into the holiday season, I can’t help but think about how our communications impact our personal relationships. We might be great communicators at work, but not so great with the people who matter most in our lives.

I want to encourage you as you get ready for gatherings with families and friends this month to let the people in your life know how important they are to you. Use your communications to reach out and create a great holiday for yourselves and those you care about.

Four Simple Gifts

1. Listening
Sometimes the best gift that you can give is just to listen. Too often, while we are listening– especially if a friend or family member is having a problem or challenge, we jump in and try to fix the situation without even realizing what we are doing. Before we know it, we are giving advice on what we think they should do.

Most of the time when people share their problems with us, there’s really nothing we can do to help the situation, because it’s not our situation. But we jump into the conversation, like Dr. Phil, or Oprah – and offer our opinion on how they can fix the problem.

I want to suggest a different approach when this happens to you over the holidays. Rather than jumping in – just listen. And let the person know that you are listening. You can do this by maintaining eye contact and identifying out loud the feelings that they are having about the situation – using empathy.

Here’s an example:
Jan your sister is talking to you about how inconsiderate her ex-husband is. Rather than jumping in and giving advice or chiming in with your opinion about the situation, try identifying Jan’s emotions about the situation and saying something like:

Jan, it sounds like you are feeling so frustrated with Jim. Then, Jan might say something like Yes, I am! It’s just so hard to keep dealing with him!

By identifying Jan’s feeling and having her agree that yes, she is feeling frustrated, Jan will feel like you heard her. A lot of the time, that’s all people want – to be heard, especially by those they love.

I suspect that’s why there are so many therapists – they have great listening skills and we feel heard by them. (I’m not suggesting that you become a therapist, just a better listener.)

2. Sharing from your heart
Do you tell the people you love that you love them? If there is a better gift than listening, it’s telling someone that you love them out loud – preferably in person.

Think about those people who are close to you – your spouse, best friend, kids, parents, in-laws, grandparents. Who on that list have you not told that you love lately? Consider calling them, or telling them in person, or even writing a letter to tell them that you love them and how important they are to you. Imagine how wonderful that will make them feel.

My son lives in Okinawa, Japan, which is a long way from San Diego! Every phone conversation we have, I tell him that I love him and am proud of him. I want him to know that always.

Who do you need to say “I love you” to? Give them and yourself that gift. It will warm their hearts and yours.

3. Gratitude
Around the holidays many of us think about things that we want that we don’t have. How about we reverse that paradigm? How about thinking about the things that we are grateful for?

We are so fortunate to be living at this time where most of us have all of our basic needs met and many of us have a lot more than that. Take time over this holiday season to notice or write down what you are grateful for in your life. It will uplift you! I suggest doing this either first thing in the morning or before bed. But really, any time is a great time.

4. Giving
Many people get depressed over the holidays, and I think it’s because they are focusing on the past or they are unhappy with their lives as they are. This is a great time to change that! If you are feeling down, do something for someone else who is less fortunate than you.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Volunteer to serve a holiday meal to the homeless
  • Sing holiday songs to people at a nursing home, or just visit them (I love doing this!)
  • Invite a service member to your home for the holidays
  • Buy groceries for a neighbor in need
  • Invite someone who has lost a loved one to your home, or visit theirs

When we can step out of ourselves – and focus on others – our spirits are lifted. Studies have shown that people who volunteer and help others live longer, healthier lives. Giving of ourselves helps us even more to those we give to.

I hope that you’ll consider these ideas and try some of them out this holiday season. I know that if you do, you’ll enjoy this time of year and bring joy to those around you. That is my wish for you.


About the Author

Dana Bristol-Smith is the founder of Speak for Success, an organization that works with companies that want their people to communicate with confidence and credibility. You can email Dana