Why Do We Give Gifts Anyway?

Gifts serve a variety of roles in our society. They serve to connect us to each other, mark milestones & holidays and help our children understand social customs. In many ways, the gift itself is an expression of emotion. Some gifts practically purr, “I care about you and want to delight you,” while others shout, “I put little thought into this gift. You should be lucky I got you anything at all.”

In talking with people about their gift giving experiences, it is clear that a really great gift and a really bad gift have one thing in common: they are both unforgettable. The really great gifts make people smile for years to come and help them feel very special, valued, loved. The really bad gifts also leave an impression, but usually it's one of hurt, disappointment or frustration.

I have a theory that the closer the person is to you…the more important it is that you get her a gift she likes. When Aunt Peggy gives you a sweater that is clearly a “What Not to Wear” item, you may roll your eyes and chalk it up to the fact that she's 80 years old and only sees you once a year and maybe, just maybe, the sweater was in style when she was your age. If however your husband gives you a misguided item, I'm betting you are going to tell your girlfriends about it…and your mother…and your sister…and at some point during an argument with your husband, you will also tell him.

As you start your holiday shopping, remember…gifts are a symbolic way to show someone you care. Instead of thinking about what item to select for a gift, start by thinking about how to delight the person you love.  Just a small shift in attitude can help you enjoy shopping for a gift a whole lot more and improve the odds that the recipient is delighted with the result.

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