The hardest part about December is wanting to wish your colleagues happy something, but you’re not sure what. I’ve had to look up the respectful way to send happy greetings during December for clients, too. Here’s my take on the matter.
We’re All Humans First
As such, we’re the same in many ways (we smile, cry, are supposed to pay taxes, and at some point we die), and we’re also different.
Yes, that may sound wishy washy. Sorry, this blog post isn’t 10 Steps to Not Get a Complaint.
Getting to know people on these different levels is a journey. Certainly was for me. Definitely still is.
But communication can be messy precisely because we’re sometimes the same and sometimes different.
We all have five senses, but how we use them—and if they even all work—will differ from one person to the next.
We all love, but how we love differs from one person to the next.
We each have an identity, and it, too, will differ from one person to the next.
But because we’re all humans, we all have a heart. And we’re all capable of learning.
We All Celebrate Second
Great. We’re humans, we have hearts, and we can learn. How does that affect what you say during the season of multiple greetings?
It affects your intent and your relationships.
I’ll use me as an example. Do I have to learn first what the other person celebrates and then pass on greetings customary to their beliefs even if I don’t follow those beliefs? At least it would show that I care, right?
Or should I wish them a Merry Christmas, because, even though I no longer identify as Christian, that has at least become my tradition, and I still believe in the desire to bring peace to the world? Would that still show that I care? Or that I’m ignorant of their beliefs?
I approach person-to-person and company-to-people communications differently.
Expressing Holiday Greetings as a Person
By passing on a joyful greeting from my belief—Merry Christmas—I’m expressing meaningful good wishes to another human.
By passing on joyful greetings from their belief, I hope I’m showing respect. I do mean for it to come from my heart.
Should I see that the message is not being perceived as respect, then it’s my duty to make note and not repeat that mistake. It is not the recipient’s duty to continue to accept my misguided well wishes.
Because we are humans first and we celebrate second.
My goal with wishing someone a Merry Christmas is to pass on well wishes. If the recipient doesn’t understand that, then I need to change the message.
How to Communicate Season’s Greetings as a Company
Again, humans first, celebrations second. Heart first, but then learn.
I have no issues with “Happy Holidays,” especially at the corporate level. I don’t believe it’s erasing anything. The populations of Canada and the US are growing. Perhaps both countries have some form Christianity in their founding laws (that didn’t include women and people of colour as humans, but I digress), but everyday life is lived by people from myriad cultures and religions.
Don’t be afraid to reflect that in your communications.
Many religions celebrate something at this time of year, and no sales associate, bookkeeper, or customer service rep can be expected to guess what the customer or client opposite them celebrates, if they celebrate anything at all.
The only thing I ask of companies is that their message match the company’s ethos. Not a supporter of religion, but wishing everyone a Merry Christmas? At the company level, I’d rethink that.
To Answer the Question: What Do You Say in December?
For me and my company, peace is the focus of December. That doesn’t mean we walk around silent and smiling and the epitome of calm. We’re human. Just like the journey to your heavenly vacation destination has turns, stop signs, detours, bumps, hills, valleys, and tempting tourist traps, the path to peace is hard.
But it’s still a path.
My company is new, so it will take us time to figure out how we express our support for peace this month. At the very least, we’ll post a holiday greeting focused on peace on December 25th.
But my point is this: your greetings should reflect your company.
Can you say, “Happy Holidays?” Of course you can. For extremely large companies, this may be the best, because it can be extremely difficult to ensure they speak to all customers. For solopreneurs just starting out, it says, “I’m thinking of all my customers. Thank you for doing business with me.”
Can you say, “Merry Christmas?” If it reflects your company (that includes your employees) and your client base, go for it. But the larger you are, the more I’d recommend addressing those who don’t celebrate Christmas, too.
If it fits your company ethos, and you have the resources to do so, you can research greetings for each celebration that takes place in December. If your company is large enough, inviting members of that culture or religion to help is fine, but be wary of tokenism, i.e., going to the sole member of a minority group who works for you to ask for help “because they’re there.”
(You’ll have to judge that relationship. Some are happy to help. I can’t offer any advice there aside from that one sentence. I’m a somewhat reclusive writer for a reason.)
If you don’t know anyone who could help, do your best to learn. Try a search like this: “How to wish Happy Hannukah when you’re not Jewish.” Searches like that will give you results that include holiday background information and advice on when to mind your own business.
One last, but very important, tip: pay attention to holiday dates. Some holidays move each year.
When deciding what to say at this time of year, think humans first, celebrations second.