No matter where in the world you live, or what your cultural traditions and norms may be, a gift is always more than what it appears to be on the surface. If you’ve ever been blown away by something that was given to you as a gift, then you know just how emotional or satisfying it can be to receive something that represents something so much deeper than the occasion or obligation.
The gift you choose to give to another person can reveal what you think about them. Do you have a particular thought process or routine you cling to whenever you have to buy someone a gift?
Here’s what your gift-giving techniques say about how you really feel.
The Way Too Personal Gift-Giver
According to Devin A. Byrd, PhD, a psychologist and associate professor at South University in Savannah, GA, gift giving is an “act” that requires two components:
- 1. finding a gift, and
2. making sure it’s a good fit for the recipient.
When a gift is chosen based on how personal you can make it, the balance between personalization and usefulness can get thrown off, which can lead to unexpected negative reactions and eventual nonuse of the gift.
As an example, you might consider your Uncle George’s love for smallmouth bass fishing and sweater vests. Giving the gift of a sweater vest that has fish designs all over it is overly personalized, and it isn’t very useful.
Gift-givers tend to focus more on people’s stable traits as opposed to their many other wants and needs. Choosing a gift according to what the person is like, rather than what they like, is why the mismatch tends to occur.
The Male- or Female-Minded Gift Giver
When it comes to giving gifts, gender differences play a huge role in what goes on in people’s heads. Quite unsurprisingly, it turns out that women prefer to buy gifts that are more sentimental and meaningful, whereas men tend to choose gifts that are more practical and even utilitarian.
While one of the sexes may not ultimately be better at giving gifts, research has shown that women are indeed more involved in gift-giving. A study that involved 95 men and 157 women provided each participant with a photo of a fellow participant and then had him or her decide on a gift for that person as part of a Secret Santa activity. The researchers found that the women were better at predicting their recipient’s preferences – most notably, that the women had much greater interest in interpersonal issues as compared to men.
The Gift-Giver Who Always Just Gives Gift Cards
In a 2013 survey of 7,466 Black Friday shoppers, nearly 40 percent of the gifts they bought were for people they considered to be picky. In these cases, shoppers felt less motivated and had a higher tendency to reduce their gift-giving effort by either selecting something the person specifically wanted, or by resorting to gift cards.
But do people really hate getting gift cards as much as we think? Maybe not. A First Data 2012 study revealed that an incredible 85 percent of people would rather receive a $25 gift card than a $30 gift.
According to MasterCard’s 2013 Consumer Holiday Survey, over 50 percent of those surveyed considered shopping and budgeting for gifts as a primary source of stress. 42 percent prefer to take the easy route by giving gift cards over real gifts.
The Anxiety-Ridden Gift-Giver, Paralyzed by too Many Choices
It’s common for people who admit to never having any idea about what gifts to get for family members or friends to take it as a sign that they don’t know them well enough. But experts say that the opposite is actually true – people who struggle to think of gift ideas are overly anxious about finding the right one.
Karen Pine, psych professor at the University of Hertfordshire, says that the more the relationship matters, the more some people worry about choosing the perfect gift. “The more we value the other person, the more want the gift to be an accurate reflection of the strength of our feelings toward them. And what we don’t want to do is give them a gift that’s a poor symbol of the importance of the relationship.”
So pay attention to what you’re really feeling when you set out to find the perfect gift for someone. If you can focus on harnessing the power of your own intuition and your highest level of emotional intelligence, you shouldn’t have to struggle with being sure that you’re choosing the right gift or worrying whether the person who’s meant to receive it might interpret it in a completely different way from what you intended.
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