What Makes the Perfect Gift? Probably Not What You Think.

Is it better to surprise people, or to shop from a list they provide?

Posted Dec 19, 2016

unreasoned dreams, flickr
Source: unreasoned dreams, flickr

Lately, I’ve been shopping for holiday gifts, which raises questions. What makes a good gift? Is it better to surprise people, or to shop from a list they provide? Should I spend hours searching for just the right gift?

If you’ve asked yourself these kinds of questions, John Tierney wrote an interesting New York Times article, The Perfect Gift? It’s the One They Asked For.

He looked at the research, and it turns out:

  1. Focus on long-term enjoyment, not short-term drama. Recipients enjoy a gift more when it’s something they can really use, not something that’s a sensational reveal.
  2. It’s better to buy lots of people the same good present than to give everyone individual gifts that aren’t as good. We tend to think we need to give unique gifts, but recipients don’t care much about that.
  3. Re-gift without shame. Studies show that most people aren’t offended when their gifts are re-gifted.
  4. Take suggestions. If people tell you what they’d like as a gift, buy them what they’ve asked for instead of a surprise. (In my family, we’re all expected to write long lists for ourselves, to make gift-giving easier for each other.)
  5. If you give a gift card, make it as general as possible. The more specific it is, the less likely it is to be redeemed.  People like flexibility.
  6. Gift-recipients enjoy a gift if it’s something they like, no matter how much time or effort went into its purchase. For gift-givers, however, putting time and effort into a gift makes them feel closer to the recipient. Pouring a lot of energy into buying a gift is something that is nice for the giver, not as much for the recipient.

Bonus tips from me:

  1. Items that are personalized seem more special, and these days, it’s easy to order personalized notepads, journals, mugs, sticky notes, etc.
  2. Think about The Five Love Languages. If your language is “Receiving Gifts,” remember that for other people, gift exchanges aren’t as meaningful as they are for you; try not to be hurt or angry if people don’t take the same time or effort that you do. And if the recipient of your gift speaks the language of “Receiving Gifts,” remember that to such a person, gifts have tremendous importance as expressions of love, so take gift-giving seriously.

Also ...

Gretchen Rubin
Source: Gretchen Rubin

Speaking of gift-giving...for 2017, I’ve created a Page-a-Day Calendar, crammed with tips, ideas, and quotes for how to build a happier life. I love this way of taking in information in a bite-sized, day-by-day way. Thinking about one idea each day feels helpful and manageable, and gives a feeling of slow and steady progress.


 

Tags: buying family gifts holiday holidays

Other posts you might be interested in . . .


A Little Happier: During the Holidays, Say “Yes” If We Can.

A Little Happier: During the Busy Holidays, Create Time for Quiet and Rest.

Podcast 92: Leave Something Unsaid, an Interview with Manoush Zomorodi, and a Retroactive Demerit.

Want to Eat Healthier at the Thanksgiving Feast? Watch Out for These 10 Types of Loopholes.