As the holidays rapidly approach us, we are all out shopping for those perfect gifts. Sometimes it can be difficult to shop for someone or you could be on the receiving side and get gifts that you really don't like. I've been there myself. When I was younger I had some issues shopping for family members, but I've also had family members that constantly give me things that I just don't like.

What I've learned over the years is that gift giving does not have to be impossible. It actually can be a simple, painless process. The key? To listen. Before stepping foot into the mall or pulling out your laptop for online shopping, be sure to listen and spend time with your family and friends. Even if distance is an issues, text or call them! Really listen to them and even pay attention to nonverbal cues if you can.

Listening to those you love will give you insight into their lifestyle, things they enjoy, and maybe even things they dislike. I'm sure your cousins have talked about things they've done with their friends in college. Or you Aunt talked the book club and Mom's club she is a part of. By listening we can pick up patterns of others' lifestyles and gift them something that would mean a lot to them.

Sometimes we have family or friends that will tell us upfront what they want for the holidays. You might think it won't be special then because they know what they'll be getting, but trust me, it will mean a lot if you get that gift for them. Getting that gift shows you listened to them and you care about what they enjoy. For example, if you ask you Grandma for a snowboarding helmet and she gets that for you, it shows she listened to you and wants you to enjoy your hobby of snowboarding.

I know that you might not always agree with what someone wants as a gift or that you don't have the same tastes, but that is why listening is so important. Sometimes we think we know an individual and their tastes well, but when we go shopping it becomes difficult to distinguish between what they would genuinely like compared to what you like. Listening will help you to define what one's style, tastes, etc. are.

You might think it's too much effort to listen or find patterns in behavior just to give a gift, but trust me on this one. It will be much more enjoyable truly learning more about those you care about rather than wasting time trying to find a gift that you "hope" they will like.