In many parts of the world, December is a month of giving gifts. On the job, you can give simple gifts this month and every day of the year with very little effort and no cost. Like the smile that costs nothing and gives a lot, these five gifts involve communication.
1. Use names. In many groups, people pick a name from a hat and give a gift to the person whose name they have picked. But it's easy to choose many names and to use them–that is, to use people's names when communicating with them. Based on what I have learned teaching thousands of people, I estimate that 98% of us appreciate being addressed by name and wish it happened more often. The other 2% say, "They only use my name when they want something, so I'd rather they didn't."
2. Don't swap gifts–swap chairs. Figuratively that is. In your mind, sit in the other person's chair and recognize what simple thing that individual needs to get the job done more efficiently and easily. Then give that gift.
For instance, you might figuratively swap chairs with the person who takes notes at your meetings. Let's say your meetings include lots of people discussing complex ideas in person and by phone. Sitting in that person's chair, you might realize the note taker needs the agenda, list of attendees, slides, and handouts before the meeting to get ready for it–not during or afterwards, as you had assumed.
3. Make your gift personal. At nearly every desk, lab bench, workstation, and drawing table, there's a human heart beating. Connect with that human being by saying and writing "Thank you," "Congratulations!" "I'm sorry," and "You have my sympathy on your loss." These messages take little time, yet their positive impact lasts far longer than a poinsettia plant.
4. Give the gift of acceptance. Recognize that people communicate differently. Some focus on feelings; others, on strategy. Some compose elegant memos; others poke out quick text messages. Your manager tells stories; your supervisor sends spreadsheets. Accept that we have different gifts and styles and that there are many ways of communicating.
5. Forgive. One of the least costly and most valuable gifts is forgiveness. In this season of generosity, forgive the people whose writing and communication style most irritate you. Forgive the customers and their rambling voicemails. Forgive the team member and his angry email. Forgive the abrupt project manager, the submissive meeting leader, and the prickly administrative assistant. Then forgive yourself for the mistakes you've made, rename them "learning experiences," and look forward to 2019.
Do you have other simple gifts to recommend? Please share them.