Your friends need your help.
But they won’t ask for it.
If you have a birthday coming up they don’t know what to get you. They may know your interests and hobbies, but out of the worlds of your (no doubt) fascinating pursuits they don’t know what you need and want now.
So it goes like this:
Your gift giver will realize that your birthday is coming up and think – oh yeah, I should get her something – and then completely forget about your birthday for weeks.
A week out your friend realizes that she still has to get you a birthday present, but she feels like she should have asked a while ago – now she is stuck going to the mall to see if she can find something that says ‘you’.
But she doesn’t, so you get a gift card.
Of course it does. It sounds familiar because I’ve been her. You’ve been her. We’ve all fallen into the same trap and it turns out we shouldn’t be surprised.
It’s Harder to Ask for Help Than You Think
A study done recently found something that is both obvious and yet maddeningly hard to remember: asking for help is hard. In the study they are looking at whether someone is likely to ask for help on a task but the same insights apply to a gift-giver looking for help from a giftee in selecting a present.
Like when I talked about how people felt about getting gifts that they specifically asked for (gift givers think it’s a bad idea, gift receivers generally like it) how you feel about asking for gift ideas depends on which side of the equation you are on.
Gift receivers (all of us) think that if someone wants help finding a gift for you, they will ask. We don’t think that gift givers should hesitate to ask – but we underestimate how embarrassed our friends will be to ask. Your friends will never admit to being embarrassed probably, but they are. How do I know?
The authors of the study suggest something simple:
Simply asking helpers and outside observers to [imagine a time they had to ask for help] may make them more aware of the embarrassment concerns of help-seekers
Think about the last time you got someone a gift – but didn’t ask them for help picking it. Why didn’t you ask them? If you were buying them a gift you probably knew them well enough to pick up the phone, why didn’t you. Were you embarrassed?
Don’t Wait to Send Your List Out
The main problem with gift lists, of course, is that we are also in the position of ‘asking for help’ when we send them out. We are asking our friends and our family to buy us presents.
Even if we know ahead of time that they are going to get us a gift (thanks mom!) we are still embarrassed to ask for something. Much like when your friend was delaying in selecting your gift you may delay in either making a wish list or in sending it out.
But stop – imagine when you have been a gift giver. Did you mind getting a wish list? Did you find it rude? No!
We have to keep trying to place ourselves in the other person’s position to keep unnecessary embarrassment from creeping in.
This last Christmas I received two wish lists the week before Christmas – after I had already selected gifts for the giftees. Why did they wait? Were they embarassed?
How and When to Do It
The great news about your wish list is that you don’t need to do it all at once – to spend a great deal of time selecting a wide variety of gifts or presenting a variety of things for your gift giver to choose from. They are more likely to select something from your wish list if you only choose one gift and you are also making things easier for them.
Remember – they are more embarrassed than you think. Making them choose between multiple gifts introduces another opportunity for them to be embarrassed. It seems silly when you are getting the gift but think about when you’ve given gifts. Making a choice between multiple items on a gift list is hard! It’s harder than it seems like it should be.
But it doesn’t have to make sense. It just is.
You can make things easier for your gift giver fewer options. Make a wishlist. Do it now, it will take less than a minute for you to look up that thing you want on Amazon, click Add to Wish List, and then click ‘E-Mail’.
If your birthday (Or Christmas or whatever) isn’t coming up quite yet take the time now to make a number of small wish lists or write down a few gift wishes so that when the time comes you can send them out to your friends and family and help them out.
If you are looking for more information on why only one wish is best or generally on getting better gifts read this article on gift getting next.