The Art and Angst of Gift Giving

The high concept of giving a gift is to show your appreciation and affection for the recipient. Sometimes, however, even with the best intentions, the gift is inappropriate, unwanted and even just plain wrong, wrong, wrong. Like a rhinestone dog collar for your great Aunt’s newly deceased Pomeranian, some gifts can even horrify. Your heart may flutter in anticipation of the smile that your well-chosen gift will bring and in the next moment, crash to the ground when the awkward silence announces that you goofed. Here are seven rules to help you over the moment of Kris Kringle cringing.

Lists. Ultimately, it is your dollar, and therefore your choice, but to improve your aim, do ask for lists from your favorite people. A good giver tries to get in safer territory by doing some preliminary questioning.

Duplicates. Is there any chance you bought the exact same present last year? If you cannot remember what you gave to whom twelve months ago, start keeping a record this year. Next December you will be glad that you did.

Prioritize. Your spouse or partner deserves the best gift. If you are planning on a big present for your child or buddy, make sure that an even nicer purchase goes to your beloved or you will pay all year in hurt feelings.

Start Early. One of the reasons last minute gifts are often rancid is because they are last minute. Halloween is a good clue to start ordering special items for special people. Monograms, engravings, favorite colors and brands make gifts appear planned and thoughtful.

Satisfaction. If they say they want the Prince racquet and you buy the Wilson just to save three dollars, you are going to disappoint. Try to purchase the exact gift and name brand that someone covets because it may really matter to them.

Do It Yourself. For the people that really count, shop and select their present yourself. You may save time by delegating but a mistake could cause you great embarrassment as when one father gave his six-year-old daughter an engraved locket with her name misspelled. He had delegated the job to his secretary and only succeeded in proving that he was too busy for his daughter. (“Remember that, Dad?”)

Joy. Even if you have a faux pas present, stay true to your intention of demonstrating that you care about the person, admit you made a mistake with good humor. Promise to try harder next year, return the gift this year and do whatever you can do to reassure your loved one that you really care and did not mean to disappoint them on purpose. If you are a repeat offender at bad gifts, plan shopping outings that you pay for but have someone else select the gift.

Enjoy your shopping experience and do the best that you can. Remember that holidays represent more than material exchanges of goods and services, especially, as you open you gift of yet another multicolored tie that you will never wear. Happy Holidays to you and yours.

©2007, Molly Barrow

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Dr. ©2009, Molly Barrow

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Dr. Molly Barrow holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and is the author of the new book, Matchlines: A revolutionary New Way of looking at relationships and making the right choices in love. She is an authority on relationship and psychological topics, a member of the American Psychological Association and a licensed mental health counselor. Dr. Molly has appeared as an expert on NBC, PBS, KTLA, and in O Magazine, Psychology Today, Newsday,,, Women's Health and Women's World. Please visit: or Take the new relationship compatibility test, Match Lines Systems for Successful Relationships for Singles, Couples and Business at Molly has a radio program, Your Relationship Answers at

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