A few years ago I received an extra precious gift. It touched my heart deeply and I still treasure it. But the value of the gift didn’t have anything to do with the item. It had everything to do with the thought behind it.
You see, my good friend had died. She was an older lady. It wasn’t a surprise. I had been with her often in the weeks leading up to her passing. I was very sad to lose her.
A week later her daughter gave me her favorite necklace. Her daughter loved her very much but she shared that with me. It was very touching. That necklace represented my dear friend who I had lost and the love and respect her daughter had for me as well.
It is really hard to find a gift like that. Most of the time we are grasping at straws looking for material things our friends and family might be able to use. Once in awhile we might have an epiphany!
But there is something we can give all the time, every day, to the ones we love. What is it? It’s the gift of presence. We can give them our attention, our time, our ear, and our hearts.
The Gift of Presence is Rare Today
In today’s world, it’s sad to say, the gift of presence is rare. We can sit in the same house or even the same room with someone and be completely separated from them.
We are so distracted by technology, our own worries and all the things we have to do that often we are worlds away from those we love.
That’s why giving the gift of your presence may be the most meaningful gift you can give to someone. Time is a commodity we can never get back so giving your time is one the greatest ways you can honor someone. It draws them closer to you and gives them the human connection we all long for and need.
But how can we give the gift of presence? What are some solid steps we can take to show the people around us that we truly care about them?
Let’s dive in!
1: Put Down Your Phone
The first step in giving the gift of presence should be obvious. You are going to have to put your phone down.
Everywhere I go I see people who are together but completely alone. They have their minds on their screens and they don’t even bother to talk to the person that is right next to them. I have been guilty of it and so has everyone in my family. I’m sure you have experienced this as well.
But ask yourself, if you put down your phone and talked to the person you are with would that be a more fulfilling experience?
Of course it would!
Putting your phone down and being with the people your with is a gift to everyone. When you put your phone down and give the gift of your presence it will help those you are with get the idea and put their phones down too. It’s a benefit for everyone.
Pro-tip: If you are tempted to look something up while in conversation with someone you can always say “I’ll have to look that up later and send it to you.”
2: Take Time to Listen
Have you noticed that we all have shorter attention spans these days? That’s probably cause we are trained to think for about 30 seconds at a time by all those reels we watch. We are also taught that we can just skip things we aren’t interested in.
But those habits are horrible for real life conversation. We shouldn’t interrupt or hijack conversations. We need to take time to listen to what a person is saying, even if we don’t agree with it.
When we take time clear our cluttered mind and really listen to others it’s amazing how much we can learn. When you give the gift of presence by listening well people will open up to you. You will build great relationships in your friendships, families, and your marriage.
When you take time to listen you give the gift of presence in a way that is dying out it modern society. That truly is a special gift.
3: Look for Ways to Help
When you are listening to someone you will hear about their lives and their struggles. As you listen you can look for ways to help them.
You might be able to offer a suggestion for a good solution you have found or you may need to offer them some of your time by actually helping them do something. Either way you give the gift of presence by looking for ways to help.
This also applies to being at someone’s home. If you are a guest for dinner or even staying over you can look for ways to help your host and any other guests.
Don’t just ask for help and give up when they say they don’t need it. Look for things that might need done and offer specifically to help them with those things.
Remember that when you serve others you give the gift of your presence and there is more happiness in giving than receiving.
Pro Tip: You can always offer to take the trash out, help cut up vegetables, get a cup of tea for an older family member and things like that.
4: Give Experiences Instead of Stuff
We love to give things to those we love but it can be hard to find the right thing to give. Have you ever thought about giving experiences instead?
How do you give an experience? It’s simple. Instead of looking for stuff that your friends and family might like you look for things they like to do or might like to try. Then you purchase either the experience itself for something to help them have the experience.
For example concert tickets, passes to an entertainment venue, a gift card for a spa or massage, or even booking some kind of adventure or tour nearby are great ways to give experiences instead of stuff.
But what if your friend already has a hobby they love? You could get them something that will help them enjoy their hobby. For example, my friend brought me fabric from India because she knows I love to sew. I know my mom likes to bake so I might look for something she could use to do that.
Another way to give experiences and give the gift of your presence is offer to do your friends favorite hobby with them! Taking time to learn what they love can be a great way to bond.
5: Say Thank You
Something that is forgotten all too often these days is saying thank you. Sure it’s easy to say a quick thank you when you receive something but a great way to give the gift of your presence after the event is to send a little thank you card.
I am guilty of letting thank yous slide by with the business of life but I’ve learned from a friend that is really good about always sending a thank you card that it really does make a difference.
Pro Tip: Have some blank cards on hand at all times to make this easier or download Cardsnacks by Hallmark to send digital thank you cards by text or e-mail.
6: Follow Up
If you have been giving the gift of your presence and truly listening to the people in your life you will hear about the things they are struggling with as well as the things they are excited about.
A great way to show them you really paid attention is to follow up and ask them how something they talked about went after the fact.
Doesn’t it feel great when you get a text from a friend asking you if you survived that interview, if your feeling better, or if you ever found the perfect brownie recipe?
You can also give the gift of your presence by simply asking a person you have talked to about something you talked about before last time you talked. It shows you were actually listening.
7: Give Commendation
Another great way to be present for those you are around is to give sincere commendation.
When was the last time someone told you that you did a good job on something and told you specifically why they liked it?
That is what commendation is an it feels great! It goes beyond the superficial compliment and specifically praises qualities and achievements.
When you start looking for ways to sincerely commend others it will make them feel really good.
Pro Tip: You can commend your husband for how hard he works, your mom for the way she raised you, your kids for how they deal with challenges at school, and your coworkers for how they do their work.
8: Show Affection
When we stop looking at our phones and start really engaging with the people around us we will naturally draw closer to them. Still, cultural norms sometimes keep us from showing affection for others.
Think about it though. What if today was the last time you ever saw that person? Wouldn’t you want them to know that you care about them?
Give the gift of your presence by showing affection with a hug, a smile, or a loving word. You won’t regret it.
9: Be Patient
Have you ever noticed that we are the least patient with the people we are around the most? Isn’t that crazy? We want to be close to them but we push them away with impatience.
A great way to be present for friends and family is to be patient. When you slow down to listen or help them through something you show that you believe in them and have their back.
This can apply at work too. When you show coworkers or employees patience you help everyone grow and the benefits of patience will affect everyone around you.
10: Don’t Give Up
Sometimes our efforts are appreciated and sometimes they aren’t. People are complicated creatures who put up boundaries for lots of reasons.
In my years of teaching as well as my every day life I have learned that one of the most powerful ways to give the gift of your presence is to never give up on someone.
You don’t have to text or call someone who is pushing you away or ignoring you all the time but once in a while you can send them a text to let them know you are thinking about them and still care.
This little act of showing I care has helped me regain long lost friends and rebuild friendships. Give the gift of your presence by always holding out hope.
Will You Give the Gift of Presence?
When we are busy and stressed out it is easy to become all about ourselves. Sometimes we don’t feel like being there for others because we may feel that we have nothing to give.
It may take a little effort but if you make the practices above habits in your life you will not only give the gift of your presence you will also receive the gift of the presence of your friends and family. That will help you build the happy simple life you want.
As you look for the perfect gift remember that when you truly show you care your presence is present enough!