Gifts for the Holidays: Are You Following the “Rules”?

Learn the science of giving the perfect gift, at work and in life!

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Who would have thought there was a science to gift giving? While many of us are scrambling around, trying to find gifts for friends and family, it’s easy to wonder what the point is. As it turns out, gifts can strengthen relationships, if you follow some simple rules when giving them. The same is true for gifts exchanged at work. Read on to see how you can make sure your gifts hold meaning this year!

It Isn’t a Monetary Competition!

Interestingly, gifts are not about the amount you spend. In pure economic exchanges, you need to believe that what you are giving someone equally matches what you are receiving. However, in social exchanges , it’s more about the dynamics of the relationship. For that reason, you can give a gift that is worth less than what you have received, if it holds sentimental value.

You have probably received a gift that wasn’t objectively valuable, but meant a lot to you. In social exchanges, the thought really does count. Giving a flashy gift that isn’t personal can weaken a relationship, compared to giving something of lesser value that really means something to the other person. So, don’t worry if you don’t have a lot of money to spend! Focusing on what someone would really love, or making something personal, can mean a lot more for your relationship.

Gifts shouldn't be about money.
It might seem like spending more money on gifts shows you care more. But, a thoughtful gift is what really counts!

Gifts Shouldn’t Seem Like a Routine

The rules of gift giving say that you should make the process more dynamic. While many of us give gifts to each other at the same time of year, it shouldn’t be expected that you give or receive a gift. This might seem hard to practice. How do you make gift giving seem spontaneous when you are celebrating a holiday that everyone knows is coming?

The signal your gift sends is important. One thing to think about is trying to look for gifts all year long. Maybe you’re on vacation in July and you see something perfect for your best friend. Pick it up and hold onto it! If the gift recipient feels that you grabbed something random, just so that you had something to exchange, it weakens the relationship. If you show that you were really thinking about what someone would like to receive, and you weren’t just buying a gift because it was expected, it goes a long way.

The rules also say that you should always show gratitude and surprise when receiving a gift. If not, the gift giver may feel you are expecting a gift, which is more of an economic than relationship-focused mindset. Similarly, setting a price requirement for gifts – or starting a registry – degrades the relationship process. If everyone is required to spend the same amount, or you are requesting specific items, it seems less personal and more rooted in “what’s in it for you”.

Gifts shouldn't be a chore.
Gifts shouldn’t seem like a chore. Try to make things a little more spontaneous if you can!

Gifts in the Workplace Can Take Many Forms

People may not exchange gifts in your workplace. You may also feel uncomfortable giving gifts to certain people, if you’re afraid it will be viewed negatively by others. Not to worry! Gifts in the workplace have a lot of different variations. Most of these don’t cost any money and aren’t what we would traditionally think of as gifts! But, they send the same message of social value as a monetary gift.

If you’re a manager, you can give gifts by sending employees to training or giving them more visibility on a project. You don’t have to spend money to show someone your employees you care! If you’re not a manager, you can give a gift to your employer by working on an extra project or by organizing a get-together that helps people relax and have fun. Of course, you can give back to your coworkers too. You can help someone out with scheduling or spend time showing them something useful for their work. The good news about giving is that people are likely to pay it forward to others. So, you can start a trend of thoughtful gift giving through your actions!

What are your best ideas for giving gifts at work? Have you ever received a gift that really meant a lot to you? Have you ever given one that you felt really resonated with the recipient? We have talked about the importance of giving back to your coworkers before. Let us know your ideas below. Now get out there and give some gifts that actually matter!

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