As the holidays approach, gift giving is on the minds of most of us. Although it is meant to be a joyful and selfless experience, l must confess that I usually feel angst and dread rather than cheeriness. What makes it more stressful is that my spouse’s love language is gift giving. As he excitedly goes off holiday shopping, I follow behind feeling like Scrooge. Undoubtedly, he sees me as a Scrooge as he listens to me groan. In examining what causes my “gift dread,” I’ve concluded that I suffer from gift-giving apprehension, and I know I am not alone with this anxiety.
Many individuals admit to experiencing feelings of ambivalence when it comes to gift giving. According to a study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, many people relish the opportunity to buy presents because “gift giving offers a powerful means to build stronger bonds with one’s closest peers. At the same time, many dread the thought of buying gifts; they worry that their purchases will disappoint rather than delight the intended recipients.”
Worrying causes many givers to buy more expensive gifts, believing this will convey a message of greater thoughtfulness and meaning. This notion is far from true. According to the study “Money Can’t Buy Love: Asymmetric Beliefs about Gift Price and Feelings of Appreciation” by Francis J. Flynn and Gabrielle S. Adams, gift recipients generally do not relate a dollar amount to actual feelings of appreciation. According to the study, giving an inexpensive gift does not deem the gift to be less thoughtful just as giving an expensive gift does not mean a gift is more thoughtful. Thoughtfulness and meaning are more likely to be gauged by perceived effort.
How does a receiver know how much effort you put into your gift? You let them know in ways that say “You are important to me.” Use statements like these: “While I was shopping for your gift, this caught my eye. I knew I had to get it for you!” “I made this especially for you because I knew that it would remind you of the trip we took.” “I wanted to get you just the right gift. I was thrilled when I finally came across this item.” Here are some gift-giving suggestions to quash your gift-giving apprehension:
• Think about what message you want to convey to the recipient.
This can be a sentimental message, an item that sparks a pleasant memory, or a reminder of how much you appreciate the recipient in your life. Unfortunately, we cannot fully give back what someone has graciously done for us. However, a token that evokes that memory reinforces the love and appreciation that you feel. It doesn’t have to be complicated; a bag of their favorite treats sends the message that you care, especially when a note is included that expresses your sentiments.
• What would you like your recipient to experience?
Perhaps you see that your loved one is over-extended. What gift can you give that would lighten their load? Would a meal subscription, cleaning service, or spa experience be a helpful solution? Maybe you perceive your recipient could use a get-away. A weekend retreat might be the perfect solution. Someone with small children might feel a huge relief from the gift of babysitting. Maybe you see that your loved one holds a lot of responsibility; letting loose might be just what is needed, so tickets to their favorite band might be the perfect gift.
• Share a talent that you have developed.
You might have a talent or ability that could be used to benefit another. Don’t downplay that talent. Instead, turn it into a gift, such as a free lesson, car repair, baked good, musical recording, or room organization.
When you think about how your gift will benefit the receiver, you can let go of the fear of disappointing. In most cases, the gift recipient will be overjoyed as long as they know you personally put effort and thought into their gift. When presenting your gift, vocalize the endearing thoughts and appreciation that you hold for them, or include a written note that expresses your sentiment.
Whatever the gift you settle on, keep in mind that a great gift
makes life more simple rather than more difficult. A gift certificate to a spa shouldn’t stop there. Schedule the appointment, and even offer to chauffer. Otherwise, that gift certificate might get lost in a drawer.
About the Author
Chris Eschler earned a BS in Marriage and Family Sciences at Brigham Young University-Idaho. As a life coach at Ascend Counseling and Wellness. Chris works with individuals to develop their skills and provides a safe, accepting environment for exploring a wide range of thoughts and feelings. Chris knows that you are the expert of your life and that she is simply a guide. She currently sees couples with her husband, licensed therapist Matt Eschler. Together they assist couples with all couples issues, specializing in high conflict couples work. To schedule an appointment with Chris for life coaching, call Ascend Counseling and Wellness at 435-688-1111 or visit https://ascendcw.com/.