4 Common Gift Giving Mistakes, Revealed By Research
Do you remember the worst gift you ever received? Could it be those clothes you got as a kid, when you really wanted legos or a remote control car? Or maybe you’ve been the unlucky recipient of an ugly holiday sweater.
You may not want the same types of gifts as an adult, but that doesn’t mean you’ll stop getting bad gifts. And you definitely don’t want to be the one giving a bad gift. So how do you make sure that you don’t give a gift that bombs?
Psychologists say that part of the problem comes from focusing on the moment when the person unwraps your gift. And this can lead to some common pitfalls.
Don’t Focus on the “Big Reveal”
You can spend a good deal of time looking for that perfect gift. You want to picture them unwrapping it followed by a huge grin, a big laugh, or a look of utter surprise.
But focusing on that moment is where we go wrong. At least that’s what new study published in Current Directions in Psychological Science says. When we focus on what researchers call the “big reveal” it can lead us to make some less than stellar gift choices.
Researcher Jeff Galak from the study explains:
What we found was that the giver wants to ‘wow’ the recipient and give a gift that can be enjoyed immediately, in the moment, while the recipient is more interested in a gift that provides value over time.
The problem occurs because we have a different set of motivations when we give gifts than when we receive them.
When getting a gift, we evaluate it largely on it’s long term value and utility to us. However, when we give a gift, our focus on the emotional bang the gift elicits at the time of opening.
Jeff says we should look at things differently:
We are seeing a mismatch between the thought processes and motivations of gift givers and recipients.
Put another way, there may be times when the vacuum cleaner, a gift that is unlikely to wow most recipients when they open it on Christmas day, really ought to be at the top of the shopping list as it will be well used and liked for a long time.
The researchers said a number of mistakes can come from focusing on the moment they unwrap our gift….
4 Common Mistakes of Gift Giving
When we focus on the big wow, here are 4 common things that can happen:
1. We Go Rogue – In an effort to really surprise someone, people may try and get a gift that isn’t a part of a pre-constructed list or registry. Something we think they’ll like better.
If they’ve made a list, it may be best to try and stick to what they’ve already put thought into.
2. Focus on Material Things – We feel the need to immediately wow someone. This can lead us to buying tangible, material things that are expensive, extravagant, or rare.
But gifts don’t have to be something you can physically hold in your hand. The experts say you should highly consider “experiential” gifts – or presents that provide an experience. These gifts could provide an opportunity to make new memories or connect emotionally with someone. And, ultimately, lead to longer lasting enjoyment than a material good.
3. The Socially Responsible Gift – You may think that donating money to the person’s favorite charity on their behalf sounds unique and personal. Even make them feel good. But you’d be wrong.
Nobody said giving to charity was a bad thing, but this gift doesn’t provide much to the recipient. It may even rob them of the feeling they get by making the decision to perform a good deed of their own free will. It also doesn’t provide them with any long term benefit or value down the road.
4. The Gamble – Sometimes we have to decide between going for something practical or something more light-hearted and funny.
The gift might elicit a laugh or be temporarily amusing. But it’s usually short lived. Worse yet, sometimes we might get them something we think is funny, only to find out they don’t feel the same.
So if you’re unsure, it may be better to play it safe than to gamble.
Focus On Long Term Value
It’s not that getting a gag gift, or something crazy, is always bad. But the researchers say that thoughtfulness and price can’t predict how much a gift will be enjoyed in the long run.
We can vastly underestimate how much the gift recipient might enjoy – or use – something practical.
So try and focus less on getting something that will make their jaw drop when they open the present. Instead, picture how much they’ll enjoy or use the gift in the years to come.