Friday, July 24, 2009

Brushing up on Gift Giving Etiquette!

July - What an eventful and quite busy Summer month!

Let's talk about Gift Giving and Receiving!

Most people will say openly that giving evokes far better and more fulfilling feelings than receiving. For most, I believe this can actually be true. On the other hand, let's all be very honest with ourselves and admit that receiving gifts is also very, very nice! It makes us feel special, and most of us think so!

To be remembered by someone for a special occasion in our life is unforgettable. No matter the size of the gift, whether it's a handwritten card, flowers, a very expensive electronic device or delicious chocolates. Whether it's your favorite perfume, the last season of your favorite TV Drama or an inspirational book, when we receive and give a gift, 4 things are happening:

  1. The person giving the gift to you is communicating to you how important you are to her/him.
  2. The person giving the gift to you is silently saying "I invested time (and money) to get you something that I believe will bring you value and make you happy."
  3. The person giving the gift to you is anxiously awaiting your reaction to the gift.
  4. The receiver of the gift is accepting this material thing that is celebrating a friendship, an accomplishment or another important event and is agreeing that this exchange represents the caring coming from the gift giver.
  5. The person receiving the gift feels special and cared for that the gift giver took time (and money) to spend it on you.
  6. The receiver of the gift expresses a true or untrue opinion about the gift "Wow, I love it! Thanks!"

I strongly believe gifts can have the power of positively or negatively influencing a relationship.

The GIFT GIVER's Duties:

When choosing a gift, remember how the person dresses, what his/her daily life is like, where they work, and what people they are usually surrounded with or places they travelled to.

Choose a gift by recalling what the person likes to talk about. Is he a golfer or Sports fanatic? Is she into Politics and writing? Maybe he is a Musician and appreciates music from other countries. This is why it is also so important to LISTEN to people well when they tell you stories and share opinions. You learn a lot about their likes and dislikes.

Never, and I will repeat it again (I already even mentioned that in a previous post), ask the gift receiver "Do you like it? Oh, I think you don't like it...You can exchange it if you want to!.." You should NEVER have to ask and say that. You should offer to exchange the gift yourself if you bought the gift receiver a t-shirt, for example, that is a wrong size. Apologize and offer to exchange it yourself!

Avoid giving a gift card, unless the gift receiver has actually expressed his/her liking of gift cards. Gift cards may be interpreted as "Here is something for you. I didn't really have time to look for something for you, but with this card you can buy whatever you want." So, basically, you didn't give a gift. You paid for something the gift receiver chose.


Immediately THANK the gift giver for the gift, WHETHER OR NOT you truly like it! I am sorry to say, but it would be the rudest thing to say "Oh, what the heck is that? I'm sorry, I don't even know what to do with this!!.." No comments.

Write a Thank You card (yes!) to the Gift Giver thanking him/her for the gift. You may want to write something like: "Dear Cathy, thank you so much for thinking about me on my special day! I love the new "Cool Blues" CD you gave me. I take it in my car with me, and my ride to work is much more enjoyable! Thank you! Cordially, your Cousin Laurie". Write a Thank You card when the gift giver is present giving you the gift and also when the gift giver is not present when you receive the gift.

Nowadays, with e-mail and text-messaging, personal phone calls are becoming rare, unfortunately. People claim not to have time. Personal phone calls are becoming special! So, give your gift giver a call to thank them for the gift in case you will be going out of town and will have not time for Thank You cards. I will insist that Thank You cards are the preferred option, and avoid e-mails or (even worse) text messaging. But, yes, I know we've all been in a situation where we find it too convenient not to e-mail or text messaging. Just keep in mind: Thank You cards are the best option. Avoid the rest. Be a class act!

Please, never re-gift the gift you received. In my opinion, this is a big No-No. Some people will tell you it is OK to do if you are very careful, but don't you feel bad abut it? I would! You can find good use for a gift that is, let's say, not really of your taste 100%. Just be creative!

Keep track of who gave you which gift, and if you are hosting a large event where many gifts are presented, designate a family member or good friend who is willing to help you create a list. It will come in VERY handy when you write your Thank You cards!

A month or two have passed since you received all your beautiful gifts and you STILL did not find any time to write your Thank You cards? Do it now! In my honest opinion, it is NOT too late. Again, be creative. Surprise the gift giver and write something like "Dear Eric, You will not believe how much I enjoyed using the backpack you gave me for my Birthday, on my camping trip this weekend! It is so useful, and it didn't leave my side. Thank you for this thoughtful gift that made all the difference and that I will put to great use in all my upcoming camping trips! Yours, Louise."


Note that some people prefer not to receive gifts. Or, to explain it better, gift giving and receiving may not truly be part of their culture. You should respect this, and not expect the person to jump up and down when you offer them your gift. In this case, keep it very simple. The last thing you want is to overwhelm the gift receiver. You may want to invite the person out to drinks or to lunch and dinner, instead of giving them a gift. You may want to call them on their Birthday or Graduation day, or other event and sincerely congratulate them, expressing kindness and happiness. Another great idea is to donate money to a charity this person strongly supports! This might be all they want. KNOW your gift receiver. This is key to a successful interpersonal exchange!