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Discover Western Prince William December 2017
As the holiday season approaches,
I always run into the problem of
gift giving. It's a challenge for
me. I think the perfect holiday
gift would be something
anyone would appreciate,
regardless of age, gender,
race, or creed. It would
be something that
wouldn't cost too much,
but would show the
appropriate amount
of consideration and
thoughtfulness. It
would meet the needs of
formal occasions and casual get-
togethers. And most importantly, it
would be readily available, even
at a moment's notice--even when
you forget to bring something.
The perfect holiday gift would
generate good feelings for both the
giver and the receiver. It would be
given without creating any sense of
obligation by the recipient. It could
be passed on to others without any
taint of "re-gifting." And it would
always be beautifully wrapped.
So I have an idea for a gift that
I think meets all those criteria.
It's the gift of listening. Not just
any listening, but listening with
a purpose. With intention. To be
where the speaker is physically,
emotionally, and spiritually. To
listen without an agenda other than
to listen. That means no evaluation
of the speaker or the speaker's
thoughts and ideas. No judgment.
No thinking of or suggesting how to
"fi x" the speaker or the speaker's
opinions, feelings, or ideas.
But it's more than simply being
present. It requires the effort of
consciously tuning in for as long as
it takes--not changing the subject
to one you prefer or trying to "wrap
it up" so you can move on to the
next person you want to spend
time with. It's not easy. Distractions
come up and need to be handled.
The phone ringing, a text sounding,
someone else seeking your time
and attention. It takes focus. But
whether you're with a parent,
a child, extended relatives
who you haven't seen since
last holiday season, a life-
time friend, or someone
you just met, it can
be given to anyone,
anytime, anyplace,
even at a moment's
To listen well, it helps to replace
our own thoughts with a desire to
understand the other's words. To
be curious. To replace our own
assumptions with the actuality of
the other's meaning. To replace our
habit of making our own point of
view the most important one (as we
so often do by focusing on what we
are about to say, often interrupting
the other, especially when we hear
something we disagree with), with
an intentional effort to listen to the
other's perspective for the other's
We all know this, but it's hard to
remember sometimes. Listening
to someone else's point of view,
especially when it's entirely at odds
with our own, will not compromise
ours. We can maintain our own
point of view even in the midst of
others who think differently--we
just don't always need to be putting
it out there. We can all give the
gift of listening to anyone we run
into this holiday season. It's such
a calming, delightful experience
to share one's thoughts with
another who is entirely engaged in
listening, who asks questions like,
"So, can you tell me more?"
To listen is to express love for
a fellow human being. What a
perfect holiday gift. And it's always
perfectly wrapped.
Formerly a practicing attorney in Texas, Philip founded
Mulford Mediation in 1990 and has mediated professionally
full-time for over 27 years. With offi ces in Fairfax, Manassas, and
Warrenton, VA, Philip specializes in marriage, family, divorce,
and family business mediation and communication.
Philip is a graduate of Duke University and the University of
Virginia School of Law. For more information about Philip and
Mulford Mediation, please visit or
call us at (703) 222-1024.
By Philip M. Mulford,
Professional Mediator
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