Did you know that gift-giving can strengthen relationships? I know it sounds like a silly question and most of us probably have that in mind already when we buy gifts. But there was a study that measured which kinds of gifts are better at strengthening relationships between the giver and recipient.
The findings are so cool and timely so I’m going to share some do’s and don’ts of gift-giving based on the surprising insights I got from that paper. The paper was published by the Journal of Consumer Research and here are the do’s:
Gift something experiential:
The paper has one major discovery and it’s clearly stated as its title: Experiential Gifts Foster Stronger Social Relationships Than Material Gifts. By “stronger social relationships,” the paper was referring to a combination of things like feelings of closeness and satisfaction with the relationship.
Experiential gifts, as you may have guessed, can come in the form of a concert ticket, a trip to the beach, a spa treat, or passes to Disneyland. Or if you’re like someone I know, it can be a stress-free home makeover. Hey friend, you know who you are!
Anyhow, according to the study, because the emotions evoked by an experiential gift is stronger than emotions evoked when a material thing is received, it tends to bring people closer to their relationship goals. Are you starting to wonder now what experiential gift you can give to the special people in your life?
Give an explicit request:
Yes, it may take the surprise out of gifting, which is kind of sad. But based on a related study, gift recipients do like to get what they had wished or asked for. For example, cash gifts (or GC’s) are always cool! I know there’s nothing romantic about cash gifts unless it’s a million dollars but I guess, in some instances, this can be great for kids or for adults who receive them from their parents. You may not want to give something like this to someone you’re romantically involved with, though!
And now for the don’ts…
DON’T rely on expensive gifts:
Beware of being lured into buying expensive gifts that the recipient may not appreciate at all. Research tells us that people can appreciate both costly and budget-friendly gifts. The monetary value they assign to a gift is usually lower than how much it costs. Ouch.
That said, unless you’re sure that a particularly expensive item will make your loved one jump for joy, don’t be afraid to look for a more affordable alternative.
DON’T make it a surprise:
As I mentioned before, people love receiving what they asked for. So, unless your friend asked you for a surprise, don’t be afraid to give them something that’s on their wish list.
DON’T overthink it:
Here’s the one that hit me the most: The study revealed that sometimes, thoughtfulness can lead to a gift that the recipient likes less. I think this is especially true when in our attempt to make a gift special, we end up with something we like rather than what the person likes.
This is not to say that being thoughtful is overrated. If thoughtful results in something meaningful like having an old, sentimental photo restored and framed, then it’s okay. Otherwise, it’s better to get a little sneaky in finding what a person likes.
There’s another article that says, the world’s best gifts are time, experiences, meaningful and sentimental gifts, and gifts that the person likes. That sure makes a lot of sense! Use the tips above and make your holiday gifting a success.