The holiday season is marked by many things: family, tradition, food, and decoration (just to name a few).
Gift-giving is also an important part of the season as we seek to show love and appreciation to others. Many, in search of the perfect gift will invest countless hours and dollars hunting for that one treasure to best communicate their gratitude and admiration.
But this holiday season, that gift may be closer than you think.
The holidays often provide opportunity to spend time with loved ones. For some, this is the only time of year when everyone gathers. So maybe the greatest gift we can give this year to those we love the most, is our undivided and focused attention.
Rather than paying dollars to secure the perfect present, work hard to pay attention instead.
These days, with the advent of increased technological distraction, paying attention has never seemed to come at a higher price.
When we remove distraction from our life and choose to focus intently on another person, we communicate they are the most important thing in our life at that moment. And isn’t that what most of us want? Isn’t that the very thing we are hoping to convey with the gifts that we give? That we cherish our relationships? And are willing to make sacrifices for it?
Paying attention is costly not in dollars, but something greater. When attention is paid to someone or something, we sacrifice every other thing in the world that we could be paying attention to. That is why it is such a valued commodity these days—and why it may be the best thing we can offer others this Christmas season.
Make a point this Christmas season, whether with family, friends, or co-workers, to give the gift of focused attention to the people around you.
How to Give the Gift of Attention this Holiday Season
Turn off notifications. Before family traditions, dinners, and get-togethers, turn off the notifications from your cellphone. All those dings and rings and vibrations are created for one purpose—to capture your attention. You don’t have to turn them off the entire holiday season, just at the most strategic of opportunities.
Remove yourself from distractions. It is not uncommon for the television to be on when visiting with extended family—it seems to be a societal norm at this point and getting permission to turn it off may be out of the question. But that doesn’t mean you can’t remove yourself from the distraction. If possible, choose to hang out in areas away from the television—maybe in a separate room or a separate area in the home where you can focus on the conversation in front of you rather than the football game on the other side of the planet.
Ask questions. The best conversation advice I ever got was around a dinner table 20 years ago when a friend of mine made this statement, “I used to be really bad at conversation, but then I learned a simple trick: just ask a lot of questions.” For the past two decades I have incorporated that advice countless times. When catching up with your family members this Christmas, ask lots of questions and listen to all the answers.
Lean forward. While seeking to give the gift of attention, our physical posture matters. Leaning forward and maintaining eye contact in a natural way communicates nonverbally to others we are interested in them. Additionally, the physical posture we take communicates to our brain that we are interested in the conversation—heightening our ability to listen and process information.
Offer to help. Whether washing dishes, wrapping presents, baking cookies, or shoveling the driveway, there is no lack of small chores and duties that need to happen over the holidays to facilitate a gathering of people. Look for those opportunities and offer to help the host or the hostess whenever possible. Sometimes the best conversations happen when a task brings people together.
This Christmas, put down the phone, turn off the television, and give the gift of attention to those you love the most.