The festive season is a time to appreciate others, and usually people do this by giving presents. However, some people would rather have their contribution affirmed in a different way.

The saying “It’s the thought that counts” is an overused excuse people use to avoid having to think about what type of gift or how it might be perceived by the person receiving it.

People want to feel valued and valuable so giving a gift that’s perceived as thoughtless by the recipient will only make you look like you do not know them well enough or do not care.

Gary Chapman and Paul White, authors of The 5 Languages Of Appreciation In The Workplace, offer other forms of appreciation that might make the recipient feel more valued, respected and affirmed.

When you understand and honour the primary appreciation style of the person you are thanking, your gift of acknowledgment will have several positive outcomes.

Not only will he feel truly valued and appreciated, your reputation as an insightful and caring person will be enhanced, and your relationships will deepen as a result.

So, how can you thank others in a way that suits them, and demonstrates how considerate and thoughtful you are?

* Words of affirmation

Saying “Thank you” is one of the most frequently used forms of appreciation but not everyone feels appreciated when thanked in this way.

The words could be formal or informal, verbal or written, private or public. They may be genuine and sincere, or generic. When using words of affirmation, take care to ensure your words are sincere and welcomed, otherwise you may be better off saying nothing at all.

* Tangible gifts

Like words of affirmation, tangible gifts are usually a “fall-back” and may be chosen with little or no thought — yet a gift without thought is worse than no gift at all.

When giving a physical gift, make sure you tailor it to your recipient, and don't buy the most convenient item for you. Giving alcohol to a non-drinker, for example, will simply reinforce to the recipient that you have not put much thought into selecting the gift.

* Quality time

For many people, quality time trumps both words of affirmation and either thoughtful, or thoughtless, tangible gifts. Whether it’s within work, or outside work, having quality time, perhaps to spend with people they care about, is the ultimate gift.

For these people, a box of chocolates or thank-you card won’t mean as much as extra time to spend doing what they love, alone or with others. The sense of being present and being engaged is more important than external tokens such as words or gifts.

* Acts of service

Rather than just saying “Great job!” (words of affirmation), or “Here are a couple of movie tickets” (tangible gifts), approaching someone and physically helping them out will be appreciated by those who value acts of service.

Physically helping someone complete a task, or making things easier by helping out indirectly, for example, saying “I’ve spoken with the accounts department and the deadline has been extended  to next Friday”, will be highly appreciated. For these people, actions really do speak louder than words, time, or gifts.

* Touch

While some may say it’s never appropriate to touch someone in the workplace, for others, a hand on their shoulder, a “high-five” or congratulatory handshake is important.

Think too about touch. Are you making contact with the person in appropriate ways, at appropriate times and in ways that makes him feel valued? Or are you distant and aloof, even though you may say you are always available if he needs you? Direct, personal, acknowledgment via touch is hugely important to many people.

Appreciating others in ways that are important to them will help enrich relationships and build trust. And if you’re not sure what your own preferred appreciation style is, consider how you would usually appreciate others. Chances are you will use your natural preference by default.

So, before you buy wine and movie tickets as gifts this Christmas, take a moment to consider how those you work with might want to be appreciated. Being thoughtful in your giving could be the best gift they receive.