The art of conversation: being ready with an answer to offers of service and gifts

               When discussing familiar topics among friends and family, dialogue tends to flow smoothly. But when someone begins asking questions, even a normally poised woman may become caught off guard if she is unprepared with an answer. Consider these common examples:

She has a baby and someone asks what she needs.
She is moving to a new residence and someone asks how they may help.
Her relatives ask for birthday or Christmas gift ideas

               When one thinks she may find herself in any of the above situations, she should think of an answer or range of answers ahead of time. Depending on the dynamics of her relationships, she may provide more or fewer details to one acquaintance or relative versus another. A woman should consider the situations of her acquaintances when answering their requests, and she should use empathy in order to not put them in an awkward position with her answer. Having a prepared answer herself will diffuse awkwardness as well.

               For example, when someone offers to buy a woman baby gifts she should consider their financial situation, if known. If she thinks that what she needs for the baby is far out of a particular person’s normal gift-giving price range, she may reply that gift cards to her preferred retailer would be most helpful, as she is saving up for a such-and-such. Doing so tactfully provides the other person with both the answer to their question of what she needs and an alternate option to bless her with gifts if money will be an issue for the giver, without putting the giver in the position of being automatically treated as if they are too poor to give her what she needs. This way, the one offering to give gets to decide how much to spend. It is rude to insist that someone not give a gift and especially to say that one thinks someone is too poor to give them a gift! I was in a similar situation recently when I signed up to prepare a meal for a disabled woman at my church. In front of my whole study group, a woman exclaimed that I was not expected to volunteer since I was pregnant. In fact, I was quite far along, but I knew that I would be able to handle it, and I did not appreciate someone else making for me the judgment call of what I could and could not handle. Another thing a woman ought to avoid when answering the question of “what do you need” is to reply to someone, in person, that she has a registry at such-and-such retailer that they can check. As they are asking her right then, it is polite to answer directly rather than to tell the person to go find the answer themselves; thus, it is important for her to keep up with her registry to know what she still needs or wants.

               When someone offers to assist a woman with a move, if she knows that so-and-so has to work during the time set aside for moving, it is best not to present the situation as a dire need only to leave the other person feeling guilty about being unavailable able to help. I do not mean that she should lie and say that she does not need any help, but rather that she ought to show empathy for the other’s situation by saying, “We’re moving Sunday afternoon, but I know you’ve got work until 8 and so I’ve asked others to help.” If someone insists on rearranging their schedule, of course, she will politely accept their offer. Empathy for others ought not breach the line of deciding what is best for others to do and managing their time for them. I have often found, however, that many folks feel guilty saying “no” to anything, and if one can at all help it, she should not enable this bad habit by presenting someone with a situation in which they should say “no” but probably will not. For those who cannot assist on the actual moving day, which may end up being mostly men’s work, one should be open to the possibility of accepting help in other ways; a woman may need help with packing or labeling boxes, with needing her pets or plants tended to for a few days, or with unpacking and organizing. Do not deprive others of the privilege and blessing it is for both them and you by rejecting all offers of help!

               As for gift ideas for birthdays and other holidays, I suppose I am lucky in that certain relatives still ask me for these every year even though my childhood is over. Without fail, I reply that I have no idea, but that I probably do not need anything this year, which guarantees I will get something that is thoughtful but completely not me. Then, every other day of the year, I am constantly thinking of cute little things I could need or want but would never buy for myself. The solution? Keep a list on hand that you add to as ideas come up. I keep mine in a file labeled “Gift ideas” and have them for everyone in the house, since the same relatives also ask me for gift ideas for my husband and children.

               Although the above scenarios are just a few of the many ones in which a woman will find herself needing to provide a response, and certainly some of the more mundane or less significant cases, I do hope that the insights and ideas I’ve given will help the continually improving woman to handle herself smoothly the next time she finds herself in such a situation.

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2 thoughts on “The art of conversation: being ready with an answer to offers of service and gifts

  1. Thank you, this was a wonderful post. I plan to use your list idea, it will certainly take the stress away from having to spontaneously generate gift ideas during the holidays.

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