The Art of Gift Giving

Gifts = little surprise parties in colorful paper and ribbons, and some of us like gifts more than others.  It took years for me to realize… I don’t really like surprises, and often appreciate a shared experience over a wrapped present.

According to Gary Chapman’s book “The 5 Love Languages“, there are five main ways that people give and receive love.

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Acts of Service
  • Gifts
  • Quality Time
  • Touch/affection


A thoughtful gift is a pleasure to receive, especially if you happen to want or need the item at that time.  What about the times when your good friend is so excited to give you something he just loves but you are not into, at all?  This makes gift giving a land mine of potential hurt feelings.  Then there is the forgotten birthday that your sibling or spouse can’t seem to forgive, even when you try to get them something later in the month.  Or the time you got something perfect but on sale (no returns) so when  your friend hinted it was the wrong size/color/style you still didn’t tell them.

There is an art to gift giving, to know a person and their likes and tastes to the degree that you have a good chance at getting them something they would truly enjoy. Even then, there are timing issues.  If your child is pre occupied with other Christmas gifts they may not squeal over the ‘show stopper’ bike you wheeled through the living room.  Or if they had a bad day at work, the romantic gesture of flowers isn’t appreciated as planned.

There is also the art of gift receiving – “just what I didn’t know I wanted” is a light-hearted way of expressing ambivalence  about what you hold in your hands. But there are times if you aren’t honest, you’ll get the same thing later, different version again and again. “You shouldn’t have” can be a very honest reaction!

To show appreciation for the gesture and still communicate that the gift (food, clothes or sports equipment) is not something that you would use is a real accomplishment. Recently, an old friend said “thanks, but I have something like this at home, why don’t you share this with someone else who would enjoy it?”  And although it took me back for a few minutes, her gracious tone and touch on the arm expressed her gratitude and I respected her honesty.

A simple, “thank you for thinking of me” can cover a myriad of gift situations.  And sometimes a gift receipt is  the most thoughtful part of the exchange!



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