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The Gift of Being Present This Holiday Season

presence-615646_960_720Over the last 30 days, I committed to a daily challenge to focus, reflect and act on “being relational” with others. This challenge sponsored by the non-profit organization, Orans and lead by William and Louise Phipps – Senft, authors of Being Relational: The Seven Ways to Quality Interaction and Lasting Change gave me a lot of food for thought during this holiday season.

Being present, fully present with someone you are engaged with takes intention, focus and commitment. My life is normally filled with timelines, endless tasks and pressures to be somewhere and do something leading to checking things off my to-do list and missing opportunities to being fully engaged with the person in front of me. What the Being Relational challenge did for me was to focus on how I use my time, resources and power to connect with others in a genuine and kind way. It doesn’t matter if the person is a complete stranger, an acquaintance, family or friend, or business colleague. What are we doing in that moment with the other person to be kind, to connect and to relate to one another as loving human beings? Even if this means, we are interacting with someone that irks us.

This week is Christmas where many of us will travel even short distances to see family and friends. For some of us, we are under pressure to make the obligatory rounds in one or two days to visit household after household. Is this you? Rushing from one place to the next, barely connecting and checking the box of those we need to see showing we made a effort. And yet, what is the quality of this interaction? Here are my thoughts and my checklist of what I will practice this holiday week and beyond to be present, kind and engage in a genuine way.

Let’s look at three possibilities. Strangers, friends, and estranged individuals whether they are family, co-workers, neighbors, etc.


  • Pay attention to their needs. Usually, we know what is important to our friends if we have been listening. What makes them light up with joy? If it is talking about their children, then give them your undivided attention and listen to how proud they are of their children. Or, maybe they lament they have been too busy to wrap gifts. Pitch in and help them wrap. Your friend could be stressed and simply needs a hug or to simply hear “I am here for you. What do you need?” Extend yourself to be fully present, listen and engage in kind, simple ways.


  • Acknowledge their presence. We meet strangers just about every day. Think about it. We see strangers while standing in line at the grocery store. We interact with strangers standing in the post office line. We nod at strangers asking for money to feed their families. The easiest gift of all is to acknowledge their existence. I am not saying you have to give your change to the stranger on the street asking for money. You can smile at them making that human connection and even say Merry Christmas. You can acknowledge the stressed out cashier handling mass volumes of last minute shoppers by saying “Thank you for handling all of us stressed out ” Simple words of kindness go a long way.

Estranged (Family, friend, co-worker, neighbor)

  • Reconnect with respect. We are all too familiar with the person in our life that we are estranged with because we didn’t see eye to eye; they irked us in some way, or we are holding onto resentment. At some point, we have disconnected with them, and we usually have some ill ease when we are around them. We might very well see them as part of our visit this holiday season. The key is to think intentionally about how to reconnect with this person in a respectful manner. It doesn’t mean you have to reignite a long-term relationship. It could mean simply saying hello and genuinely asking “How are you doing?” and listening for a short while. It could also sound like “I enjoy hearing your laughter.” Or “It is good to hear you are doing well.”

Ultimately, this Christmas week and into the New Year holidays think about how you relate, connect and are present in genuine and kind ways. To learn more about Being Relational, listen to the podcast “Change the Interaction, Change the Outcome.”

Pattie Porter

Founder and Host

The Texas Conflict Coach

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