Etiquette for Giving Gifts: Everything You Need to Know

Etiquette for Giving Gifts

We all enjoy receiving gifts, but buying the perfect gift can be challenging at times. We sometimes give gifts because we know they will be loved and appreciated by the receivers. We took into account their hobbies and interests and chose the perfect product to wrap in that lovely paper once they dropped the correct hints.

Gift-giving is a form of communication that everyone can learn. We believe that giving a present should be as enjoyable as receiving one, so we’ve put together a handy gift guide to make the process simple and enjoyable.

Why do we give gifts?

Gifting can be a gesture to show someone you care about them or to acknowledge the caring they have shown you. There’s no such thing as an inappropriate time to do it. We often try to push our expressions of love to fit into occasion-specific molds rather than the recipients’ own. (Consider how many recent graduates received a copy of Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” which is a wonderful book, but still.

Of course, many occasions, such as birthdays and marriages, as well as religious and cultural holidays, have established gift-giving customs. While giving gifts around certain dates can feel routine, it’s still crucial to show your love for the person receiving the gift.

Is It Appropriate to Give What You Get?

It is typical to exchange gifts throughout the holidays, but it is not always required. People often give gifts without expecting anything in return, and the gift is simply a considerate gesture. A guest might, for example, bring a basket of handmade cookies or a hand-knit scarf to a Christmas party host.

If you like to exchange gifts, have a small selection of generic ready-to-give gifts on hand. Holiday ornaments, chocolates or other sweets, and scented candles are examples of these things.

Should a Gift Given in Exchange Be of Equal Value?

When giving gifts, attempt to spend an amount that you are comfortable with, rather than one that you anticipate the recipient will spend. Some people feel obligated to return a gift of comparable value. However, determining the value can be tricky, and most people are unconcerned about the monetary value of a present. The present is usually more meaningful because of the thought that goes along with it.

Excessive spending on a present can make the recipient feel uncomfortable. Depending on your relationship with the recipient, you may feel compelled to explain that you got a fantastic deal on their gift (for example, a discounted gift card) to allay their concerns.

Similarly, evaluating the worth of a gift you’ve received reduces the act of giving gifts to a business transaction, which is not what the holidays or gift-giving should be about. To be honest, the price tag is unimportant if you have given some thought to what type of gift the recipient would prefer.

Be Culturally Aware

The Christmas season is not observed in the same way by all cultures. To avoid offending or embarrassing someone to whom you plan to present a gift, be sure you are aware of their traditions and standards.

In North America, for example, it is customary to openly unwrap a gift after it is received. However, in many cultures, such as those in Asia and South America, it is customary for the recipient to wait until they are alone before opening a present.

Gifts for All

Another typical gift-giving conundrum is whether you must provide a gift to everyone in a specific group or section of your life if you only give a gift to one individual. For example, you might offer a present to a coworker with whom you usually have lunch and question if you should do the same for the entire company.

You don’t have to present a gift to everyone in a group, as a general rule. However, you should do so quietly so that others do not feel left out. If you’re giving a gift to a lunch buddy, do so when the two of you are alone, rather than in front of other coworkers.

The science of gift giving

Gift-giving is a significant social habit with numerous dimensions. Identity, social standards, likeness, mandatory rituals, reciprocity, and other social factors are all represented in this microcosm. A gift giver has a number of goals in mind: to please the recipient, to indicate their own position, to symbolize the relationship’s status, and so on. Add to that the paradox of choice—the feeling of paralysis that develops when we are confronted with too many options—and you have a recipe for disaster. Gift-giving is an art, but it also necessitates science.

If you’re having trouble crossing those last few names off your Christmas list, may I add a few extra variables to consider? Behavioral science can provide us with some evidence-based recommendations for selecting the ideal present for someone.

  1. What does your gift say about you? And about the recipient?

The psychologist Barry Schwartz investigates the idea of the gift as an identity marker in his seminal study “The Social Psychology of Gifting.”1 It is a prevalent belief that gifts symbolize the giver’s identity: we offer presents that cause others to construct a certain image of us. A wealthy individual may like giving extravagant gifts, whereas a book enthusiast may judge gift givers based on the genre or quality of the book they choose to give.

The gift representing the gift recipient’s identity is a less-explored concept. With gifts like a science kit or a Barbie doll, parents can impose their perspective on their children, according to Schwartz. The present thus becomes a subtle technique of telegraphing the recipient’s identity to others.

So, when you give someone a gift, make sure you’re not sending them a message they don’t want to hear: your gift contains information about how you see the recipient and how they should see you.

  • Did you tell yourself “I love this, so I am sure he will love it as well”?

A gift is frequently interpreted as a symbol of the giver’s and recipient’s similarities. In a series of experiments, participants were induced to believe that an opposite-sex acquaintance or a love partner had given them a nice or unattractive gift. Participants rated how similar they thought they were to the person who gave them the gift after receiving it.

Men were more likely to evaluate themselves as less similar to the gift-giver after getting an unfavorable gift, according to the findings. Men even expressed dissatisfaction with the relationship as a result of this apparent dissimilarity. (Women’s similarity evaluations were not significantly influenced by the present they received.)

So, don’t buy a gift for someone just because you like it and think they’ll like it as well. This is especially true if the recipient of your present is a man.

  • Did you ask the recipient what they wanted?

As much as we love surprises, science advises against springing one on someone you care about. To learn more about this dynamic, Gino Francesca and Francis Flynn investigated gift registries.3 In a series of tests, participants were obliged to choose from a pre-selected collection of items. Gift recipients were more likely to enjoy a gift if it was something they had specifically requested, according to the study. Meanwhile, gift givers anticipated (incorrectly) that an unexpected gift would be seen as more attentive by the recipient.

Are you planning a surprise for someone? Consider revealing the secret to the receiver!

  • How much did you spend on your gift?

Finally, what is the line between too much and too little? Flynn and colleagues discovered an interesting contrast between how receivers and givers assessed the cost of a gift in another study.4 Item givers assume a positive relationship between how much they spend and how much the recipients will like the gift. What about the beneficiaries of the gifts? They aren’t concerned with the monetary value!

That may have saved you a lot of cash. It’s the thought that counts, as they say.

Reasons to give gifts

With those considerations in mind, here’s a partial list of probable gift-giving situations and how to approach them:

  • Birthdays. Begin with a phone call, a card, an email, or a text message for adults. Most people want to feel affirmed in their personhood, even if they “hate birthdays.” This is the day they became a person. After that, think about your connection. Is this someone you know well, someone whose tastes and desires you are aware of? Is this someone with whom you’d like to develop a deeper relationship? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should probably get them something. The gift does not have to be of the same scale (size, price, etc.) as anything else they’ve given you previously. The goal is to return their kindness and generosity, as well as to pave the way for future displays of devotion. (Unless otherwise noted, a modest gift is given to children.)
  • Religious holidays. People give a lot (sometimes more than they can afford) towards the end of each year, which is why we image glowing living rooms packed with wrapped gifts when we think of the winter holiday season. Before Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, the National Retail Federation predicts that Americans will spend between $717 billion and $721 billion in November and December. These presents are frequently designated for family members, but they can be given to people from different walks of life. Start a dialogue about it if you’re not sure if you’re on the same page with someone. It’s perfectly acceptable to inquire, “Are we exchanging gifts this year?” “, and it could save you a lot of trouble in the future.
  • Anniversaries. Every year that a couple chooses to stay together is worth commemorating, whether with a night out, a talisman for continued togetherness, or a combination of both. If you’re stuck for ideas, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to the tried and true. Material themes might influence your quest from the first to the 60th year of marriage.
  • Federal and Hallmark holidays. What are your plans for President’s Day gifts? Perhaps not. However, some of these days are conducive to creative giving. Even those who refuse to participate in these days can appreciate a loving gesture. It’s worth it to make a phone call on Mother’s or Father’s Day, or to send a bunch of flowers on Valentine’s Day. On National Ice Cream Day, you probably don’t need to sign your best buddy up for a Ben and Jerry’s subscription, but you also don’t need to.
  • New life stages. Graduations, moves, births, and deaths can all be commemorated with cards, but if you have anything that reflects or supports the recipient’s journey, share it. Even better if it’s something they would overlook as they cope with the stress of change: try a doormat for a new homeowner or warm food for a bereaved friend.
  • Formal occasions. The conventional wisdom regarding wedding gifts, bar and bat mitzvahs, sweet 16s, quinceañeras, and other similar occasions is that the gift should be equal to the cost of a place setting, which is roughly the price of a fancy dinner (think $50 to $120, and double that if you’re attending with a guest). Your gift may exceed that dollar level if you are really close to the honoree(s). It may also be difficult to quantify. If you’re on a tight budget, you could offer to swap your experience for important events; for example, if you’re a photographer, your gift to the soon-to-be-wed couple could be a pro-bono photo package.
  • No occasion. Random acts of kindness can be the most exhilarating: putting a meaningful note on a coworker’s desk, mailing a book to a long-distance friend, showing up with flowers for no reason other than they were lovely and you wanted to share that beauty with someone else. The benefit of these gestures is almost always greater than the work required to make them.

The Bottom Line

What we offer as presents and how we receive them both reveal a lot about who we are as people. It is unavoidable that an embarrassing situation arises during the Christmas season, although most people are aware of the situation. Keep in mind that many people merely offer gifts to express gratitude, and all that is expected in return is a simple thank you.

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