Is It the Thought or Is It the Gift That Matters?

Gift-giving is a complicated matter.

Posted Jun 17, 2019

Is it the thought or the gift that matters? This question may seem much simpler than it actually is. I have seen relationships become distressed by the nature of gifts. I have also seen relationships grow closer based on good gift choices. Keep in mind, that most people feel that it sounds wrong to say that it is the gift that matters. Throughout our lives, we have repeatedly been told that it is the thought that matters. Not so fast here. 

Let me explain. If you don't know someone well and you are expressing gratitude then in those cases it probably is the thought that matters. However, if you are giving or receiving a gift from someone who you are emotionally close to then for goodness sake the gift matters. I have sat in countless sessions during which deep disappointment was expressed when a partner gave a gift that had little to do with his wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, relative, etc. Consider the husband who gave his wife the same necklace for Christmas two years in a row. Maybe, some of you are thinking that she should be grateful that he got her a gift like this. However, this woman rarely wore jewelry at all. Her husband clearly wasn't paying attention to what she liked and as in many other arenas. He simply wasn't attuned to her. How about the woman who continued to gift her husband with a cologne that he had stopped wearing years ago? Yikes. This was not good at all. She had clearly been focused elsewhere.  It is no surprise that they are no longer married. Now, consider the following scenarios. How about the adult child who remembers to buy her mother a book by her favorite author or a blouse in her favorite color and style? Or the new boyfriend who picks out a plant that his new partner pointed out during their visit to a garden? Those who pay attention clearly prevail in the gift-giving department. They have not only given a thoughtful gift but the gift strengthens the relationship. The gift choice clearly states that you are important enough to pay attention to. It also sends the message that you are important enough to put time into gift selection. 

So, now that you know that the gift matters-what should you do when you receive a gift that you don't like from someone who you are close to? This is a tough one. Kindness always wins so start out with a gracious thank you. In another moment, explain that you are appreciative but that the gift isn't really your style. This may seem unkind, but if you want someone to get to know you better, kindness and gracious honesty are important. The hope is that you will have many more gift-giving moments together and that you will learn how to make these moments more meaningful and joyous. If you are concerned that this will destroy the relationship then it is probably already on shaky territory. Take a moment to consider that.

Also, keep in mind when you are giving a gift to someone you want to get close to, that a gift given with lots of thought and consideration may make the relationship closer. Consider how you feel when you are surprised by a gift given to you that shows that the person really knows you and understands you. Lots of points are gained in this exchange, yes?

So, am I suggesting that gift-giving should be fraught with stress, anxiety, and deep concern that a poorly chosen gift can tear away at the tightly woven fabric of a good relationship? Nope. I am saying that a gift should be chosen with care and thought and not with 2 seconds remaining. The gift you choose may make someone very happy.

Here's to good choices. I hope you have the opportunity to make a lot of them.