What does it take to give truly thoughtful gifts?
Though we love to do it, gift giving can be incredibly stressful. Even with a plan, we always find a way to cast doubts on our choices. When the slippery slope of questions start the gift we're so sure of gets put back on the shelf. We resign ourselves to spending hours wondering around stores second guessing every new choice, until frustrated and tired we settle on a gift card. We reason with ourselves that while this is not one of the most thoughtful gifts, at least they'll get something they really want.
The Conundrum of Thoughtful Gifts
After the turbulent search for those perfectly thoughtful gifts we are left to wonder...
"Why is it so hard to find the right gift?"
If you've ever experienced this, you know what we're talking about. The stress of gift giving can consume whole weekends, and even distract from completing other day-to-day priorities.
This is supposed to be the easy part, whether we are giving or receiving gifts only a few are ever really sad or mad about the gift itself. Frustration arises when there's a perceived lack of thoughtfulness attached to it.
When frustration strikes, even after we've agonized over what gift to get, it's a terrible feeling for all involved. We end up feeling unappreciated for our effort and they're disappointment stings for both sides.
How do the best intentions for thoughtful gifts go wrong and what can we do so they don't?
Solving the Mystery of Giving Thoughtful Gifts
The problem we often run into when selecting gifts is we prioritize only one or two aspects of a gift and slot them into a few broad categories. We begin to relegate particular types of gifts by age and interests. We tell ourselves things like "This gift is fine for a child, but I'd never give that to an adult." We rationalize, "They like this, but do they like it enough to get them something related to it as a gift?"
While age and interest are fine factors to base gift selection on, thoughtfulness is rarely part of this kind of selection intentionally.
When we lack intention, using age and interests as the deciding factors can end up making the gift little better than defaulting to a gift card. Which is why justification of buying the gift card can be so easy. In both cases we're not sure what to get our loved ones and the choice boils down to: get what's popular, take a shot in the dark, or buy a gift card. Certainly the gift card is the safest choice. But we don't want to give safe gifts, we want to give incredible ones!
So how do we insert thoughtfulness back into gift selection?
The answer is three fold, and it focuses on some little thought about factors of what creates the perception of a truly thoughtful gift anyone can appreciate. Even if it's not exactly what they asked for or have a huge price tag.
Aim for your gifts to fulfill one aspect of each to find a great thoughtful gift!
Focus on Longevity
Intent for longevity on a gift indicates how long the gift is intended to bring joy. At one end, some things are intended for novelty, are perishable, or cheaply made so they aren't likely to last, sometimes even past one use. While at the other end some specialty items are intended to last generations, and everything in between. Depending on the type of celebration, one could be far more appropriate than the other. Walk around any store and you'll find things are designed, and made to fulfill exactly these contexts. So think about how long you really expect the gift to last in the life of your loved one. \
So ask yourself: "Is this the kind of gift I want to last a lifetime, a few years, a few months, a few days, or a few minutes?
A Note: Don't underestimate the power of a gift with limited longevity! When recalling an experience, one of the largest contributing factors to our decision of whether we remember them fondly or otherwise is how they end. In this way a gift that provides a momentary burst of joy which resolves quickly can be thoughtful gifts indeed!
Focus on Message
Focus on message will keep your gift relevant to the experience your creating for a loved one. No matter what gift you give, you are sending a message with it. You could be telling the person any number of things about your relationship with them. This is what makes gift giving so much fun and exciting! Maybe you want to show you notice them or take an interest in what they like. You could be showing them you recognize their challenges or support their endeavors. Your gift could also be intended to show just how much you care, or to create a memory that lasts a lifetime.
So ask yourself: Will this gift strengthen our bond through laughter, sharing, conversation, mutuality, or remembrance?
Note: Let go of framing your gifts as what people "NEED", giving gifts isn't about need. If someone needs something that's just taking care of them. Never wait to fulfill the needs of a loved one. Needs are much too important to be put on hold.
Focus on the Experience
Focusing on the experience of receiving a gift will really add that extra WOW factor! We like getting things, but things aren't what we remember or what we value. Rather it's the experience of using or doing those things that make a gift both thoughtful and memorable. So, use the senses to amplify the experience and message of your gift! If the gift is funny then package it in a silly way, rig a cheap gag so when they open the gift a curly snake pops out! If it's an emotional gift take some time and extra care in the wrapping, attach a nice handwritten note for a stronger impact. When your gift is romantic, give it a little spray of a nice smell. Maybe your gift is meant to comfort and would benefit from having something soft included as a tiny add-on gift before they open the big gift. Some gifts come best after a speech or a song, if they are meant to be in appreciation of someone. Amplify the elements of sight, sound, touch, and smell with your gift and it will take your gift giving skills to a whole new level!
So ask yourself: What type of experience will amplify the overall message of the gift?
Note: It's the smallest details that make the biggest impact. When you've put thought into how someone receives the gift, how the gift will be meaningful to our relationship, and are clear on the longevity we expect from the gifts we give there is no doubt of it's thoughtfulness!
The Most Important Part of Thoughtful Gifts
Last but not least, don't give your gift and let the interaction end there. Engage with the recipient about the gift! Ask questions about it, share in the consumption, go and watch them enjoy the gift you've given. Be present during the initial excitement and help them have a good time.
The whole point of thoughtful gifts is to appreciate, celebrate, and bring loved ones together. They don't have to be huge sweeping gestures, they don't have to cost exorbitant amounts of money, they don't even have to be something people are expecting or have asked for. They just have to mean something for your relationship with your loved one.
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