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The Art of Gift-Giving


Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, Sweetest Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, anniversaries, hosted events, – so many gifting occasions.

Giving the perfect gift is a pleasurable experience for both the giver and the receiver. However, the wrong gift can be more damaging to a relationship than no gift at all.

Gifts have a psychological component that we naturally consider. A present that is overly generous or obviously cheap, tacky, or inappropriate promotes hurt and resentment. Receiving an extravagant gift can make us feel as if the giver expects more in return than we are willing to give back. Too little of a gift can make us feel unappreciated. And on occasions such as Christmas and Hanukkah when we receive gifts in groups, everyone becomes uncomfortable when the balance of gifts is drastically different for one person.

Much is said in recent years about re-gifting, the act of giving someone else a gift we’ve received but do not want. It’s never OK to offer the gift as one we’ve purchased for that person, especially if the gift is damaged or opened.

Some studies have shown that men are more price-conscious and practical with gift-giving while women give gifts with emotional significance. This can get many a spouse in trouble. Few wives want a vacuum cleaner for an anniversary, but a husband may be perfectly happy with a lawn mower.

Giving without expectation of anything in return is psychologically healthy. It’s also rewarding to see a receiver excited about a gift we’ve given them. The gift doesn’t have to be expensive; it only needs to be desirable to the recipient. Often the best gifts are very simple and inexpensive, like a bottle of bubbles for a 14-month-old or a special garden tool for a gardening enthusiast. The trick is in finding something we think the receiver would like.

When selecting a gift, we can ask ourselves a few questions about the recipient:

  • What are their interests and hobbies?

  • What makes them smile, relax, or excited?

  • What are their needs?

  • Is there an item that they would want but not feel they should purchase for themselves?

  • Is there something that can be personalized or designed especially for them?

And don’t forget about presentation. Pretty paper and bags, ribbons, and bows make even a simple gift feel special.


After all of that, there isn’t any guarantee the person will want the gift we finally select, but they will know we cared about them. The time and effort to think about them and their happiness, shop, and wrap for them will be evident. They will feel loved, and that is the best gift of all.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

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