Despite the best of intentions, some gifts just fall flat and end up getting returned.
How can there be such a disconnect between giver and recipient? A new study suggests the answer lies in perceptions.
According to the study, gift givers focus on the thrill of the moment when the gift is given. But the recipient focuses on how it will be used.
“The biggest mistake that people make is that they end up thinking about gift giving as a gift giver, instead of from the point of view of a recipient,” explained study co-author Elanor Williams. She’s an assistant professor of marketing at Indiana University.
Givers may neglect to focus on what’s important to the recipient, including their preferences, according to Williams.
“The recipient obviously matters, but it’s a lot harder [for givers] to think about them than it is to think about yourself, and I think that’s where a lot of mistakes come from,” Williams said in a university news release.
“They get stuck in this role of being a giver and have a hard time getting out of it and thinking like the recipient does. A good gift is going to be a match between the giver and the relationship and the recipient,” she said.
The study, a survey of existing research, offers tips for gift-giving:
- A fun gift may be great, but recipients are often likely to be more thankful for a useful or practical gift, and givers may underestimate how much these kinds of gifts may be appreciated.
- Gifts don’t need to be physical objects. Event tickets or a gift certificate to a nice dinner out or a massage can be appreciated and even preferred. “Receiving an experience from somebody makes you feel a stronger emotional connection to them,” Williams said.
- You may not make much of an impact if you give a “socially responsible” gift like a donation to a charity in the recipient’s name, especially if you’re not that close to the recipient.
- Gift cards are popular, but it may be best to give one connected to a credit card that could be used anywhere.
The study was published recently in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science.
If gift-giving is giving you stress, check out this article from the American Psychological Association on making the most of the holiday season.
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