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How to Give The Perfect Gift

Christmas is just around the corner. Some are starting to celebrate the festive season by searching for Michael Bublè on Spotify, others are debating whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie or not. But we all have one thing in common: having to think about gifts for our friends and family. Often, the temptation is to come up with last minute generic gifts. Yes, I am talking about the Yankee Candle you bought for the last Secret Santa.

Nonetheless, gift giving is an important art to master. It serves to strengthen social ties, since it shows support and gratitude for those around us. In addition, a study by Emory University showed that acts of kindness can improve our mental and physical health, making us happier and even lowering our blood pressure. Therefore, considering all these benefits, it is worthwhile to learn how to choose the perfect gift!

First of all, remember that an expensive gift is not always the best solution. It comes naturally to believe that the higher the price, the higher the gift’s quality will be. While to some extent this may be true, it also leads to a certain amount of mental laziness on the part of the gift-giver. In fact, they often assume that the gift's high price itself makes it the right choice, without questioning whether it is appropriate.

We must therefore bear in mind that, unlike us, the recipient often does not know how much the gift really costs, and in many cases, this will not be the decisive factor in their appreciation. Moreover, many people may feel embarrassed by an overly expensive present, especially if they are unable to reciprocate, leading to feelings of embarrassment or even guilt. For this reason, my advice is to choose an appropriate budget for the circumstances but not to rely on the price alone when choosing what to buy.

Always keep in mind that empathy must be put first. Gift-giving is ultimately about making an effort to see the world through the eyes of the recipient, trying to grasp their needs, and paying attention to details. If you fail at this task, the recipient will ultimately think about how little you know them and how little attention you pay to their needs. Imagine a Taylor Swift album for a heavy metal lover or earrings for someone who does not have pierced ears. This is because, as Dr. Julian Givi — assistant marketing professor at West Virginia University — explains, people often lack perspective thinking and find themselves giving gifts driven by personal desires and guesswork that do not match those of the recipient.

The key to a good gift is therefore careful observation. This is especially true for some of the most difficult yet equally most appreciated gifts: the personal ones. I am talking about the scrapbook that your best friend gave you for your birthday, the advent calendar you prepared for your boyfriend, the doll you always wanted as a child but had never received. Despite their potential for being cheesy, when they are done well, they can speak directly to a person's heart because they address an unspoken need for human connection.

Finally, according to Adelle Yang and Oleg Urminsky’s study — The Smile-Seeking Hypothesis: How Immediate Affective Reactions Motivate and Reward Gift Giving — a perfect present is one that is thought out in terms of how it will benefit the recipient in the long term. We often feel compelled to surprise our loved ones with original and extravagant gifts, but there is nothing wrong with a mundane but useful present. There is no gift that has made my friend's eyes light up quite like an air fryer for her new house, and my Netflix subscription still ranks among the top ten gifts I have ever received. By meeting your loved ones’ material needs, you show both that you know them and that you want to improve their lives. And then, consider that every time they use your gift in their everyday life, they will think about you. Not bad, right?

What are you waiting for? Now that you know how to pick the perfect gift, all you have to do is follow these principles this Christmas. You'll certainly become the favourite at Secret Santa.

Illustration by Magdalena Yiacoumi

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