December 20, 2017

Magazines, news feeds, and blogs are currently jam-packed with gift guides, offering endless suggestions for the gardener, chef, traveler, techie, etc. in your life. Perhaps the best gift ever is less about how much you spend or how hip your idea is and is entirely about how well you listen.

Listening FOR a Gift

Finding great gifts for other people – especially those who seem to have everything – is hard. Good listening skills make it much easier. Being a good listener means you are attentive to what they say and express. Active, engaged listening helps you uncover clues about what might make a big difference to someone. You will learn what they are interested in, or what frustrates them, and you will uncover clues about a gift that will really make an impact.

For example, the spouse who expresses how much they love their book club may be delighted by the latest best-seller; the roommate who complains about the broken kitchen gadgets will appreciate a new gourmet tool; and the friend who mentioned how much she misses home will love something nostalgic.

Listening well – and jotting down ideas to come back to – means you’ll always have a thoughtful, appropriate gift at any time of year and you’ll never need to reference gift guides again.

Listening AS a Gift

Less about wrapping up the perfect item, true listening is a gift in and of itself. When we listen carefully – not to respond, but to understand – we are honoring the other person. We are showing our respect for them and offering empathy for their perspective. Genuinely listening to someone requires us to set aside our defenses and to open ourselves to fresh and different information. Welcoming someone to share their insight – big or small, politics or traffic – reminds them how much they are valued by you. It is a gift of kindness and compassion.

If you find yourself struggling to pick the perfect gift at the eleventh hour, let go of the latest trend or hottest item. Revisit a previous conversation for the truest ideas. And if you really can’t remember (next time, take note), open a new conversation and be a better listener. The returns of your gift will be endless.