I love December – the weather is warming up in the southern hemisphere; the year with all its hard work, problems and joys is winding down; family, wherever located, take on fresh significance; and secretly-held hopes and dreams for a better year to come rest in the hearts, minds and emotions of many. Some call it “the silly season” – people scurrying around attempting to find the “perfect gift” for a loved one or close friend, end-of-year functions, parties and perhaps ultimately a well-earned holiday for the family. For others, Christmas is a sad time, as they remember and mourn the loss of someone close to them. A common denominator amongst most people, however, is that the festive season and approach to the new year introduce new stresses of their own in the gift-buying department, especially if one’s budget is limited. The gift must also be unique – handkerchiefs and socks are not going to make the grade!

Perhaps a list of great gifts to give, always, that will not really impact your budget, could include the following:

  1. Be Present – because of busy lifestyles, self-absorption, distraction and perhaps other important matters, people sometimes are not really “present” in their relationships. We drift past each other, like two passing ships at night. We may occupy the same space, but our focus is elsewhere. Our attention is not on other people, their needs and their uniqueness. Being present involves focus and empathy, connecting emotionally and being sensitive to the needs of the other. Being present is a demonstration of care, a visual and emotional statement to the other that he or she is valuable. Being present with another affirms worth.
  2. Listen – when young, our parents and school teachers guide us on how to speak, read and write, but no-one ever teaches us to listen. We may hear what the other person is saying, but not really listen to what the other person is saying. Listening involves, not only our ears, but our mind, body and heart too. Body language is a crucial ingredient to communicate to the other empathy and focus – it is saying: “You are important enough to me for me to give you my full attention”.
  3. Contribute – this is not just about “doing your bit” or “bringing your part”, but is fundamentally about offering your uniqueness. We are not “cookie-cutter creations”, but individuals with unique gifts, abilities, personalities and skills. Perhaps your greatest contribution would be to offer the “real you” to others unconditionally. The benefits are enormous – relationships are enhanced, team work is optimised and creativity is sparked.
  4. Show Appreciation – Mother Theresa once said: “There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread”. People need to be affirmed for who they are and for what they do of value. It makes them aware that someone notices and cares and it encourages them to continue the good work. Organisationally, it also conveys a strong message of values, creates role models and communicates the expected standards. Showing appreciation has mutual benefit – it is not only a gift to the one being appreciated, but also a gift to the one expressing appreciation.
  5. Recognise Exceptional Contribution – good performance often goes unnoticed in the work place, leaving staff with an attitude of “what difference does it make if I work hard or not”! This demoralising situation inhibits productivity and energy in a team. Appropriate recognition positively impacts productivity (and subsequently revenue) and results in lower staff turnover rates. Recognition expressed creatively for great work enhances team performance and communicates expectations around desired behaviour in the organisation.

The act of giving and all that is associated with the practice is often reduced to the purchase of a retail item. While there is nothing specifically wrong with giving beautifully wrapped gifts, even unique ones at that, perhaps we need to rethink the giving of ourselves, the offering of our uniqueness and the extending of warm praise where earned appropriately. Giving of yourself is an all-year possibility and makes for sustainable relationships.

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