Wow. Heavy realization, isn't it? What the doctor is really saying boils down to this: To be the consummate gift-giver, at least where your significant other is concerned, you need only be the caring, attentive partner (we hope) you always are, which means you need to:
1. Listen. Has your S.O. ever mentioned something he/she would like, even in passing? Has he/she ever pointed to an item in a shop window or a favorite gift catalog? If the answer is yes, you have (good) surprise on your side. If it's no, try to visualize the person with a gift you think he/she would like. Picture your loved one opening it. What does the person's facial expression and body language reveal? Can you picture the recipient using and enjoying the gift? Does his or her interaction with it seem natural? Finally, ask yourself, if the tables were turned, would you want to receive the gift?
Listening worked really well for a friend of mine whose husband was always after her to do exotic things in the bedroom. So using a transit pass punch card as a model, she created her own punch card listing all the sexy "services" her husband could access any time by simply presenting the card. She gave it to him for his birthday, and he was totally thrilled. Who knows if it ever got "used," but the thought behind the gift was spot-on (and a great surprise!).
2) Be aware of the recipient's needs/desires. This one's a no-brainer if you take the time to listen on a regular basis (see above), but, hey, we all lead crazy-busy lives, so just in case, it’s okay to ask the recipient what he/she needs/wants, i.e., the holiday "list." We do this at my house, but with a twist: My husband and I will often use our lists as a jumping-off point, deviating from it slightly to reintroduce an element of surprise. For example, if I ask for jewelry (and I always do) and what he picks out is not quite to my liking, I don't mind because it gets me into the jewelry store, where I can exchange the gift for something I really love. And sometimes, I tack on a little extra "something" to the tech gifts my husband always requests. These surprise extras aren't huge or expensive (usually the device is costly enough on its own!), but something that I know will make him smile—and let him know I put some thought into his gift.
3) Cook/shop/create/plan ahead. I know this is a common refrain during the winter holidays (and don't you just hate those people who are done with their shopping by Halloween?), but being really, well, present when you're buying presents takes time and patience. Saving everything for the last minute results in hasty purchases—and hasty purchases, as we said, just make you look like an insensitive, careless clod. Not quite the Grinch, but along those lines. So do yourself and everyone else a favor: accomplish what you can ahead of time, even if it's just planning what you'll give to whom (see points 1 and 2). That's the most difficult part, anyway, and you don't even need any special equipment, just a pen and paper (or the digital equivalent).
That's really all there is to it. Three easy steps to make every gift you give memorable. It's not too much to ask considering the benefits you'll receive in return: the authentic smiles, the heartfelt you-shouldn't-haves (which really means they're glad you did!), and the unsurpassed feeling of self-love—the greatest gift of all.