Forget about the apps and the unwraps for a while this holiday season and focus on making a meaningful connection with the most important people in your life instead. The most sought after gift this holiday season—more delicious than fruitcake and warmer than a new sweater—is the gift of your time and undivided attention to your family and friends.

Here are three ways to set the conditions for more meaningful connections this holiday season:

Talk like every word counts. While words can build relationships only slowly, they can cause damage with lightning speed. A blurted retort or a thoughtless remark can—and does—destabilize relationships all the time.

The fastest way to improve your communication at the holidays is to stop talking long enough to think about what you want to say before you express it. This will help you block ill-advised words and provide the space you need to self-correct when you’re surprised, frustrated, angry, or upset.

Listen like every sentence matters. To make the most of our interactions when digital distractions are all around, we need to reestablish listening to prominence. Intentionally focusing on listening will help you be more present in conversations and will decisively improve your interactions at the holidays (and beyond).

People tell us all the time about things that are important to them—what they value, what they fear, and what they desire—but we’re often too busy multitasking to absorb what they’re actually telling us. The “old school” behavior of listening will greatly improve your conversations, and will help you become far more knowledgeable about the people in your life.

Act like every interaction is important. Nothing kills a conversation faster than someone who doesn’t seem to care about it. And it doesn’t take much more than folded arms, a disapproving scowl, a sigh of boredom, or a well-placed eye-roll to make someone feel like what she’s saying just doesn’t matter.

But we simply don’t know which of our interactions might be important—and perhaps even vital—to the other party. Communication is unpredictable like that. Lending an ear to Aunt Sally might help her feel better about a family problem that’s tugging at her conscience. Talking through a work issue with Cousin Billy might give him the confidence he needs to make a change in the New Year. The only sensible course is to act as if every interaction is important.

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to connect with another person, but it does take some effort. This holiday season, give the gift of meaningful connection. It’s what your friends and family really want.

Question: How do you facilitate meaningful connections at the holidays? Please leave a comment below to continue the discussion.

For better connections in 2014 and beyond, read Stop Talking, Start Communicating. Autographed copies are available online at Brace Books.

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