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The Art of Christmas Gift-Giving

NOT long to go now until the much anticipated Christmas Day. A special time of giving and receiving, but mostly receiving, if you happen to be a child.

Remember back to when you were a kid and how exciting Christmas was? As a child, I remember shaking on Christmas Eve in anticipation of what Father Christmas was going to bring me. I spent the days leading up to Christmas making room in my bedroom for what toys I predicted I would be getting.

You’d be glad to hear that I no longer shake when I am about to receive gifts, because that would just be weird. But also, I don’t seem to get many gifts either these days. We have a pile of presents under our tree, and none of them are adorned with my name. Even the dog has one. But none of that matters, because the enjoyment I get around this time of year is from the ‘giving’ part of Christmas.

Unlike children, whose happiness is often based around receiving, for us adults, happiness comes from giving gifts to people around us. In fact, research has shown that giving presents to others makes us feel happy, satisfied and more proud. It makes us feel good when our actions and behaviours result in making someone else happy. We are pack animals after all, so it’s wired into us to please others.

But some of us get it wrong.

Finding the perfect gift can be quite a stressful conquest for many. Nothing is worse than the look of disappointment, confusion or embarrassment in the face of someone receiving one of your gifts. A wrong gift exchange can be rather awkward, particularly when you get the opposite response to what you were aiming for.

Gift giving is more than just consumerism. It is showing someone rather than telling someone what you think of them. It is turning thoughts into something material. So keep that in mind. Strange as it may seem, gift giving is about the person you are buying for, not about you. So it’s wise to think about the person themselves and how the gift will make them feel.

This is a crucial step that many forget.

For those men who are thinking of buying their wives a vacuum cleaner or iron for Christmas, have a think first. Yes, you may feel that it would be useful for them, but how would your wife feel? If you think she would feel loved, valued and cared for upon receiving this gift, knock yourself out.

Another handy tip for gift giving is that perhaps the object of your gift giving would prefer not to have an actual material gift. Probably not a great idea if you are buying for a six-year-old because you would be met with dire disappointment on Christmas morning. But seriously, many adults don’t care for presents.

As the author Gary Chapman outlines in The 5 Love Languages, giving gifts is not the only way of showing love.

Perhaps your person would prefer words of affirmation or compliments, maybe they would prefer you spend more of your time on them, or maybe they would prefer some physical touch. Maybe an act of service would make them feel special. Like writing a voucher for washing their car, babysitting or vacuuming the house (rather than buying them a vacuum). How would the person you are buying for feel about any of these? Maybe better than a shop-bought gift.

You probably don’t have to think this deep if it’s a $10 Secret Santa in the office, but nevertheless putting in a bit of effort here won’t hurt either. Again, think of how that person will feel when they open it. If you are looking for a feeling of indifference or even annoyance from a colleague then wine glass charms, a toffee-filled coffee cup, pack of handkerchiefs or a paperweight will make this happen. But if you know that these gifts will make them feel special and fill them with joy and wonder, then go for it.

So this year, show your understanding of the person you are buying for, and concentrate on how they will feel when opening your heartfelt gift. It doesn’t matter how much you spend as long as you put thought into it, time and effort.

They might not shake as much as I used to do when opening Christmas presents, but you might have a similar effect.

** Article previously published in Dec 2016 Perth Now


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