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Phone for the Holidays: Giving Voice to Your Gift List

By Martha Michael

Phone for the Holidays

There are various traditions associated with end-of-the-year holidays, from creating gingerbread houses to watching the ball drop on New Year’s Eve. But the one thing that many of these rituals have in common is the ability to connect you to others in your personal and professional network of relationships.

This year may well be the most unusual holiday season in a lifetime, in part because of the physical disconnection due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There will be numerous “firsts,” no doubt, and one that could turn out to be a prescription for peace of mind is a return to the practice of phone calling.

Lining up ways for kids to talk to Santa has long been a feature for many young parents, but it may be worth the effort to expand upon that audience to include older Americans, distant relatives, or business associates, all of whom you haven’t seen in person for the better part of a year.

Calling Those in Confinement

One benefit to choosing a phone call or a Zoom session over the annual Christmas card is to counter the high level of isolation many people have experienced this year. An article in The Guardian talks about how too much solitude can turn to loneliness, especially over the holidays.

“There is nothing more miserable than sleeping, waking, eating and doing more or less everything alone -- especially for anyone single, separated or widowed, and in poor health -- while the rest of the country seems to be playing happy families, or at least trying to,” the article says. “And most of us are much too busy to help some old person whose existence we’re not even aware of.”

Having a chat with a grandparent or family friend and tapping into their lifetime of experience makes it a win-win. As much as they may have raved over the creativity of your annual Christmas letter, a call enables them to tell their story, including their losses and hardships, as well as make light conversation about news and sports.

Closeness for All

You don’t have to be vulnerable to feel the effects of a personal touch. NPR has an article about the importance of relationships over objects, especially over the holidays. While much of November and December are spent in search of perfect gifts to meet our obligations, what people really crave are the relationships behind the items. It’s the small things -- not material things -- that make people feel the support of others.

A study in The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships says that people prefer small actions over grand gestures. Behaviors such as cuddling, a kind word or the transfer of compassion make people feel loved, says Dr. Zita Oravecz, a professor in human development and family studies at Pennsylvania State University. Research shows that situations communicating significant emotional support include time spent in nature and engaging with friends.

This year it’s human contact that’s in short supply due to the coronavirus restrictions, which makes phone calling more important than ever.

Your Holiday Mobile Network

In a typical year, the holiday season provides a great opportunity for businesspeople to network with associates through parties and other events. Because it’s a festive time of year, people drop a lot of the usual formalities and converse outside professional settings.

When you connect with customers and business partners over the holidays, you can maximize the benefits by adopting some strategies. When you make phone calls to associates, make a point to:

  • Write down details that you can discuss further after the holidays
  • Offer professional insights when appropriate
  • Agree to promote each other on social media
  • Reach out to them online following the call

An article by Kiplinger.com says that old-school networking is the next best thing to being there. While many of us wear our phones on our wrist or in our pants pocket, the holiday season is a good time to channel Alexander Graham Bell and use your voice.

Create a list of people to contact, from distant relatives to former business partners. Instead of texting a meme or forwarding them a link to a podcast, make a call and make it personal. It may become a weekly or monthly ritual.

The overused homonym urging us to choose “presence” over “presents” is slightly redefined this year. If not face-to-face, we can at least up our game from snail mail and texting to a voice, Facetime, or Skype call. While everyone has their own list of Christmas wishes, most will agree that making contact with those they like, love or respect ranks pretty high. Perhaps Christmas calls will even eclipse the annual winner for reaching out and touching someone -- Mother’s Day.

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