I I like to think I’m an excellent gift-giver – but sometimes I’ve veered into questionable territory. Once I rolled a 25-inch piece of cardboard for my smiley face. The recipient—a family member who wished he’d seen more of me—loved it (despite the odd looks from everyone else).
My other greatest hits were less controversial: Jenny’s ice cream shipped to a friend across the country; Rare petticoats from the Netherlands. Tear and open dog toys well before their intended reveal.
They are all the result of months of agony. Somewhere around Labor Day every year, I get into elf mode and start spinning my wheels over holiday gifts. How to make a splash without draining the bank account? What do you give to the person who will not make a list? Why is this so difficult?
To my surprise, help comes from an unexpected source: scientific researchers. People actually specialize in studying gift-giving to highlight what we’re getting—and what’s wrong.
Lest one think that this kind of research isn’t as important as other weightier topics, consider: We’re all gift givers, and we’re all stressed out. “It can have a real impact on people’s relationships,” says Julian Givi, a professor of marketing at West Virginia University who has authored several studies on gift-giving. “It can bring people together or separate them. It has huge implications for well-being, it’s practiced all over the world, and tons of money is spent on it.” (Everyone should look forward to Givi gifts, right? “I guess it depends who you ask,” he says modestly. “But I definitely try to follow the advice.”)
Here are six science-backed tips that can help you improve Gift giving game this year.
Two years ago, a friend sent me a package for one of my favorite holidays: my birthday. I surreptitiously saved dozens of photos from my Instagram account—of me and my dog, my other dog, my cat, and my other cat—and printed them out on a large blanket that I still admire every day. I cried. It was one of the most amazing gifts I’ve ever received.
While most of the things we give people eventually disappear into the black hole of forgotten possessions, sentimental gifts often remain cherished for years. But we don’t give it as frequently as we should – usually because they feel like it’s a risk. When faced with choosing between a sentimental gift or something directly related to the recipient’s preferences and tastes, most people choose the latter, according to 2017 Report Co-authored by Givi and published on Journal of Consumer Psychology. However, Givi’s research indicates that recipients actually prefer sentimental gifts that remind them of special events and relationships.
Say Jeffy was shopping for his brother, a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. “I might go ahead and give him a Steelers jersey,” he says, rather than the more sentimental option he had in mind: an album of private photos. “It’s a superficial kind of gift, but I can take comfort that it will be at least somewhat well received.” His research indicates that, in fact, he was better off using a photo album.
So the next time you’re in doubt, remember: It’s hard to go wrong with something sentimental, and the recipients really want these gifts—more than anything outwardly aligned with their interests.
Think beyond the moment of exchange
Everyone wants a “wow” moment—a stunned, ecstatic friend or family member who can’t believe their good luck receiving such a Great gift. As a gift-giver, “I want to see your eyes light up and be happy,” says Robin LeBouf, a gift-giving researcher and professor of marketing at Washington University in St. Louis. But those moments are fleeting, and the recipient will stay with the gift after that initial exchange.
Research indicates Instead of striving for a great reaction, we should focus on what will ultimately provide the maximum long-term benefit or pleasure. “We tend to prioritize desirability or distinction over usefulness or usefulness,” she says. “As givers, we try to improve and maximize—we try to do the best and the most amazing—but recipients don’t always need or expect that, and they may actually be happier with something that fits their lives better.”
For example, LeBeouf says, recipients don’t necessarily want a gift card for the city’s finest restaurant—which might be remote or difficult to score reservations for. They prefer to go to their favorite restaurant down the street. So take the pressure off of finding something that will be super exciting to dump, and think two weeks or two months down the road instead. What will still be useful after that? (In case you were wondering: the cardboard cutout doesn’t pass the test, emotionally as it was. Mine is now collecting dust.)
Go through all the trials
You’ve heard this debate before: things versus experiences. It turns out that experiential gifts are better at strengthening relationships than physical ones, according to him Research It was published in 2016 in Journal of Consumer Research.
“What we found is that people who received experiential gifts felt more connected to the gift-giver,” says study co-author Cassie Mogelner-Holmes, a professor at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. “Interestingly, it didn’t take the donor to actually try it — to go to dinner with the person, or go to the concert with them.” While this is certainly a bonus, recipients were simply happy to try something fun. “Whether the giver is present or not, the recipient is thinking about that person while consuming the experience, which I think is wonderful,” Holmes adds.
I did a rock climbing class for two. I would be very happy if my friends reading this would introduce me to it Taylor Swift tickets. But you can also get creative with what counts as an experiment. For example, suppose you give a book to someone. Write a letter about what you hope they get out of the reading experience. Or maybe you’d choose “something mundane like a mug,” as Holmes puts it. “When you give them a cup, you can write a card saying that when they drink their morning coffee, you want them to relax.” This shows that you are thinking about their morning ritual and experience using the gift.
Try not to be selfish
jive search We found that we often refrain from giving people a gift we already own because we don’t want to diminish the uniqueness of our possessions. “Let’s say I have a special Josh Allen jersey,” he says, referring to the Buffalo Bills quarterback. “Maybe it’s a throwback shirt. Would I like to give a similar version—or even a better version—to a friend? It’ll make me feel like I’m not so good anymore.”
But it will also deprive the person you’re gifting something they might love, and come on, it’s the holidays. As far as possible, crush those selfish tendencies. “If you’re really trying to maximize the happiness of your recipients, remove yourself from the picture,” advises Giffy.
Make things easier on yourself
If you ever He went shopping For a long list of people, you probably felt pressured to make each gift unique. This should not be a concern. Lebov search He points out that in this case, shoppers focus on distinguishing gifts rather than each person’s preferences. As a result, they choose unique gifts over ones they would have liked better. Instead, we should think about what each recipient would choose for themselves, and if that means buying the same thing for everyone, then so be it.
“We want to honor their unique personalities, but perhaps each person would be better off with this cool gift,” says LeBeouf. “Think of everyone in isolation, rather than comparing them to others.”
Sometimes we’re so eager to prove that we know the person we’re shopping for that we excel at catering to certain interests.
Let’s say you like cats. “Your friends might start giving you cat things, like cat stationary and cat pens, cat, cat, cat,” you name it, says LeBeouf. “They’re trying to be really thoughtful and show, ‘Hey, I know who you are.'” But at some point, the recipients are like, “Enough of the cat stuff already.”
Research that LeBoeuf is currently working on indicates that recipients prefer gifts that are more diverse. For example, even if someone’s favorite color is pink, they may be happier with a pretty pen suitable for everyday use, versus the choice of fluorescent pink. “We try to say, ‘This would be the perfect thing for you,'” she says. “But recipients might prefer something a bit looser and a little more hands-on.”
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