Even though the memory of a great gift exchange between clients and colleagues can be alluring, it isn’t everything. Research and reality are here to remind us that a thoughtful gift should last beyond just the moment of surprise, becoming more useful and valuable for years to come. Yet, many gift-givers tend to focus on the moment of reveal instead of the reality of usefulness. But, why?
To better understand, we’re sharing stats and science-backed research to help shift our gift-giving focus and look past the big reveal.
Shifting your focus
The most memorable gifts turn out to be the ones that recipients actually can use. In a 2016 study, researchers found that gift-givers focus on the moment of the reveal, while recipients actually prefer a gift that is useful and versatile. “Givers are thinking about the moment that the recipient opens the present and looks at it, how big a smile are they going to have on their face.” The study pointed out that, “recipients don’t care about that. That’s a one-second moment in their experience, whereas their use of the gift has a much greater influence.” In fact, a gift your recipients are genuinely excited to have and use can leave a lasting impression beyond tearing off the wrapping paper. So, where’s the disconnect?
According to a research article by the Association for Psychological Science, co-authors Jeff Galak and Elanor Williams studied many existing frameworks from similar research in this subject, trying to find a common ground between the moment of exchange versus utility. The researchers found that some of the most common gift-giving errors included:
1. Giving unrequested gifts in an effort to surprise the recipient like a bottle of Scotch when you don’t know if the recipient drinks alcohol or a trendy gadget they don’t know how to use.
2. Focusing on gifts that are most likely to be immediately well-received such as leaving chocolate on a hotel pillow. When it’s not instantly enjoyed, it’s easily forgotten about.
3. Giving socially responsible gifts such as donations to a charity in the recipient’s name, which seems special at the moment of gift exchange but provides almost no value to recipients down the road.
From this, the researchers made recommendations for those hoping to give better gifts: empathize with their recipients when thinking about gifts that would be genuinely appreciated. While it may be easy to get caught up in the trends of today, gift-givers who are able to shift their focus from what’s hot to what will actually be used and enjoyed tend to deliver the most memorable gift experience to their recipients. It all boils down to what the recipient really wants and hopes to receive.
Give them something they can use and enjoy
And the easiest way to find out what they want? By letting them choose. By letting a recipient choose their gift, it relieves the hesitation and pressure most gift-givers tend to feel before the moment of exchange. It eliminates the guesswork and helps to ensure that the recipient will use and enjoy their gift for longer and remember who gave it to them later. Remember: to give a gift that is useful, you need to find out what your recipient wants.
If focalism underlies these types of errors, then perhaps advising givers to put themselves in their recipient’s shoes will help them consider how gifts might provide value to the recipient once the wrapping paper comes off (Baskin, Wakslak, Trope, Novemsky). Gift-giving shouldn’t be about the moment of shock and awe. It should be about the usability of the gift and the value it brings into the recipient’s life.
Less shock, more awe.