By Robert Pagliarini, Tribune Media Services
Over the last couple of weeks I've written how you can save money this Christmas. If you follow those tips, you'll make the people on your list quite happy. But if "happy" just isn't good enough for the most special people in your life, you can give them a gift they will never forget.
I was at a party the other night, and, after the other guests had left, the host and I sat around the kitchen table and just talked. I mean we really talked -- something much deeper and more meaningful than the surface-level chit-chat that occupied most of the evening's conversations.
What I heard touched me. The host, a neighbor I just met this year, opened up and told me how much he valued our friendship. He said I was an inspiration. I shot back, "I don't know about that," but he stopped me. He looked at me thoughtfully and slowly said, "Robert, you really have been." He then went on to give me very specific examples over the last 12 months of how I impacted his life and why he was grateful we met.
A few things struck me about this conversation. First, I immediately felt overwhelming gratitude. It was an amazing feeling to have someone tell me how much my friendship meant. Nothing feels better than to hear someone tell you how much you mean to them and how you've impacted their life.
Second, whether you are cognizant of it or not, you have had and are having an impact on others -- your coworkers, your neighbors, your kids' parents, your clients, your family and your friends. And if you think very long about it, you'll realize they have had an impact on you.
Third, for a lesser man (or woman), these heart-to-heart conversations don't just roll off the tongue. They take courage. They also require details. It's one thing for someone to tell you in glib Hallmark fashion how much you mean to them, but it is a completely different and more profound experience to hear the smallest of details that you thought went unnoticed.
Fourth, there is usually a large disparity between how we see ourselves and how others see us. It can be fascinating and eye opening to hear how others experience us.
And lastly, the feeling that has developed since that night is the desire -- maybe more aptly described as a need -- to share with those around me how they have impacted my life.
Maybe you're already good at sharing your feelings. You may argue that you tell your friends and loved ones what they mean to you throughout the year, so there's no need to do again. Maybe you're afraid this kind of conversation would make your friend or family member feel uncomfortable. Or more likely, you may be hesitant because it would make you uncomfortable.
Whatever your excuse, I'm going to make it easy for you. Use these questions as your guide. If one-on-one isn't your thing, write your answers in a letter or card, send them an email, or post the questions and answers to their Facebook wall.
-- What do you appreciate about me the most?
-- What have I done this year that made your 2011 special?
-- How would your life be different if I wasn't in it?
-- What did I do this year of which you are most proud?
-- What are my best qualities?
-- What traits do I have that you wished you had?
-- How do you experience me?
-- What do you know about me that I probably don't?
This is your fast track to move beyond pleasantries and platitudes. It will touch the lives of all those you send this to in a powerful and meaningful way. They won't look at you or the relationship the same. And if that's not enough, this is one gift you can give and avoid the malls, the lines and the debt this Christmas. Now that's something to be grateful for!
Robert Pagliarini is a CBS MoneyWatch columnist and the author of "The Other 8 Hours: Maximize Your Free Time to Create New Wealth & Purpose" and the national best-seller "The Six Day Financial Makeover." Visit YourOther8Hours.com.
This was printed in November 20, 2011 - December 3, 2011 Edition.