There’s only one week until Christmas and if you are like most holiday gift givers you’re probably waiting to the last minute, struggling to find that perfect gift for that loved one or coworker this time of year.

Let me guess – another pair of socks? A gift card? Or how about another necklace for the wife?

Before you throw the towel in and go to the old stand-bys, it’s not too late to boycott the traditional go-to presents and give the perfect gift this year.

In his transformational book, “The 5 Love Languages” Gary Chapman talks about how everyone feels loved (valued) in the following ways: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. You, your family, friends, and coworkers can take the test here.  I recommend it to anyone wanting to master the holidays and have an A-plus relationship with family members, friends and coworkers.

For instance, if your primary “love language” is receiving gifts, getting another thoughtless gift – like pair of gold toe socks – can really deflate your love tank this time of year. Also, because your love language is receiving gifts, you’re probably an awesome giver, showing love to others by giving great gifts (You know who you are.  Everyone in your office always wants to get your gift during the white elephant exchange at the company Christmas party)

But what if your spouse or son’s primary love language is quality time? Maybe all they want for Christmas is for you to put down the laptop, quit updating your status on LinkedIn, and spend more time with them this holiday season.

So here are a 5 ways you can be a bit more personal and spread joy with your last minute gift giving:

1. Words of Affirmation.Those who feel loved (valued) through words of affirmation want to hear you say you care about them.

Card shopping? Don’t just pick up the first card you see. Take the time to pick out just the right card and write something meaningful in it.  Trust me, they will know the difference and see that you have spent valuable time on them. Write a poem, letter, or create a photo album with past memories and personalize it.  Customink is a cool company that lets you create custom t-shirts or sweatshirts, making your gift say “I know you & I care.”

bearMy mom passed away a few years ago and I knew the first Christmas would be tough without her. So I gave my dad and my brothers and sister a little bear: “Until we hug again.” It had a recording of my mom’s voice that said “I love you”. I had her voice on an old voicemail, and it didn’t take much for me to upload it to the bear. For my dad, who thrives on words of affirmation, it was just what the doctor ordered and an easy way for him to know that I care about him.

2. Acts of Service.  Those who feel loved (valued) through acts of service will know that you care through serving them in some special way.

A great gift of service could be to hire someone to clean the house for your significant other, enlist someone to take care of the yard work, or have their car detailed (if your minivan looks like ours that’s a great gifts for the whole family). You can also give them a “coupon book” to redeem services by you that they see as helpful or valuable. Serve them breakfast in bed over the holidays. Or, how about cooking the big holiday meal this year or doing the pile of dishes after your Christmas feast.  What about your kids? I know it sounds crazy, but how can you serve them this year?

When thinking about your team members, find ways that you can go beyond the mundane corporate holiday gift. Try working together on a service project, serve at your local food pantry or homeless shelter or find other ways to serve in your local community together.

3. Receiving Gifts.Those who feel loved (valued) through receiving gifts want to receive gifts from you that are thoughtful.

So if you are getting a gift for someone who loves receiving gifts, make it count. Bag the gift-card. Say no to the personal check and the money holder card. A bad or thoughtless gift can make them feel unimportant.

Instead, think about the recipient, what they like, what interests they have. If you’re stuck without ideas, don’t fret – ask for help. Talk to their family, friends and co-workers for creative ideas.  And if you still feel in the dark about what to give, check to see what they have been pinning on Pinterest or liking on Facebook. It will give you a good idea of what they are interested in so you can give a gift that won’t end up on the return pile at Target. You can also check out what gifts are hot for 2014 on Pinterest here:

In the end, according to Chapman it’s not about the amount of the gift it’s about the purpose behind the gift: “Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift.”

So here are a few ideas for the gift receivers: Get something from their favorite store that they normally wouldn’t purchase on their own. Maybe it’s a painting or artwork they noticed with you 3 months ago that they never purchased. Or start today and give them something small but meaningful to open every day until Christmas. I know it’s not 12 days of Christmas but 7 days can work just as well to remind them every day that they matter to you.

Bonus tip: If you have someone in your life whose love language is receiving gifts, don’t just use the holidays to tell them that they are important. Look for opportunities throughout your week, month and year to let them know you’re thinking of them.  Give something thoughtful to the people in your life who feel loved by receiving gifts – like your spouse, kids or coworkers – something thoughtful from you from time to time, even if it’s small.

4. Quality Time.Those who feel loved (valued) through quality time want your undivided attention.

Sometime the best gifts don’t come wrapped with a bow on top. This holiday season find time for those around you who need a little more “You Time.” I know the tendency is to try to get more work done during a slower time of year, but put away the work (it will be there in 2015) and take some time off. Disconnect to connect. Spend time with your family and friends. After all, that is most likely what they really want if quality time is their love language. Don’t believe me? Here is an actual response to a post I found online. “What do you want for Christmas?”


So go catch some light displays, go ice skating, build a fire or a snowman. Slow down, watch a movie together, like “A Christmas Story.” There are no excuses here, it’s on TBS for like 24 hours straight!

At the office take the time to get out to lunch with the team and have meaningful eye to eye, heat to heart conversations.

If you’re looking for a gift for a quality-timer, think about tickets to a movie or play , or a trip where they can spend time with the people they care most about.

30 years from now the people you care most about may not remember what you bought them this Christmas but they will remember the memories that you made together. Time is one of the few things you don’t get back in life, so invest some this holiday season.

5. Physical Touch. People who feel loved through being held or touched.

An easy gift is utilizing the 3 H’s: Hugs, High Fives and Holding Hands. Know when and where to use them and make sure that the type of contact is appropriate for the relationship. If it’s your spouse holding hands may seem insignificant, but shows that you outwardly care for them. If you are hanging with a coworker this holiday season, don’t forget the high 5 and occasional fist bump.

Maybe you need to give that someone special this year the gift of a massage, a pedicure or spa treatment. Book as session at Massage Envy or send them off to the spa at The Four Seasons. It’s a great way to speak their love language.

If you’re like most of us, you really do want to give the perfect gift to show that you care, but it’s easy to get distracted by trying to spend the right amount or even just trying to get it all done around the holidays. Put those holiday distractions aside and pause for a minute this season. Use the 5 Love Languages to take a closer look at your relationship with the ones who love and support you all year round.  By spending a little extra quality time getting to know your family, friends and co-workers you can give the perfect gift – and stay off the Naughty List…