Some day soon you are going to go shopping for a gift and come home with the wrong thing.
You’re going to waste money and time picking out a gift that your giftee doesn’t want.
How do I know? Because I did the same thing for decades.
I used to do the same thing as everyone else. I thought I was a considerate gift-giver, I really tried to find nice gifts for my friends and family but I fell into the same trap as everyone else until I came across an article in a psychology journal that made a point that was both obvious and surprising.
So What’s the ‘Secret’?
The best gift for anyone is the gift that they ask for.
Hang on, I know what you are thinking because my first reaction on reading that was a big ‘no duh’. But as the article points out that we have a curious blind spot.
When the researchers surveyed people who were going to give gifts (let’s call them ‘gifters’) they thought that giftees would appreciate a gift from a wish list or a carefully chose gift from off of the wishlist equally.
However when they surveyed people about how they felt about receiving gifts they appreciated creative gifts less than gifts that had been explicitly asked for.
The gifters who went shopping for creative gifts were doing more work in order to make their giftees less happy!
That was me – trolling malls, searching online, racking my brain to come up with unique and original gifts but at the same time hoping that my family got me the things on my list.
But That Seems Lazy!
I think we fall into the trap of searching for gifts because we want to communicate to our gift recipients that we care for them, that we are thinking about them. Our hearts are in the right place.
It’s hard to face the idea that that effort may be wasted, but rather than thinking that you will be spending less effort picking out gifts, instead I think we should spend our energy differently.
Instead of sneaking around trying to pick out gifts that you think your gift recipient will like take take the time to have a conversation with your giftee.
Ask them what they want and take the time to listen.
One of our most deep-seated desires as humans is the desire for attention. Buying a creative gift may show effort, but taking the time to listen attentively to your giftee affects them on a deeper level.
Ask. Listen. Then show that you were listening by getting them the gift that they asked for.
It’s simpler than hunting for gift ideas, but I’m not convinced it’s easier.
But It’s Not Christmas, They Don’t Have a Wish List!
Finding a gift that your giftee wants is certainly easier when she passes around a wish list, but you don’t have to wait for your giftee to take the initiative.
Pick up the phone and call: what do you want? What do you need?
It’s less commonly done for holidays other than Christmas, but I don’t think that anyone will mind that their friends care enough to find out what they want.
I’ve written other articles (To which I will include links here soon) about why people don’t always come right forward with what they want. None of that overrides the fact that people like to talk about themselves and they like to be paid attention.
Consider the attention paid to them part of your gift.
Sometimes people will even have forgotten that they asked for it – which makes your gift all the more impressive!
Do you have any ideas for getting wishes from someone or giving them exactly what they want? Let us know in the comments below.
Still struggling with the notion that a wish list is the way to go? Tell me what you think and let’s talk about it.