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Unwrapped: the do’s and don’ts of gifting!

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Does the thought of buying, or even receiving gifts, fill you with trepidation and almost horror? You’re not alone, as many of us suffer from ‘pressie anxiety’, writes Janet Doyle

As the festive season approaches, does buying that special pressie for a loved one, or even something for the workplace ‘Kriss Kringle’ break you out in a cold sweat as you spend weeks worrying about finding that so-called perfect gift? Or you could be on other side of the coin—you may have ‘pressie-opening-performance- anxiety’, or what experts call doronophobia: the irrational fear of opening gifts. I mean, what if you HATE the item? “Oh, how gorgeous—I’ve always loved T-towels made from bamboo!” you squeak, ‘Emma-Thompson-like’ in Love Actually, as you hotfoot it to the bedroom where you sob gutturally into them (at least they muffle the noise)—hating them and everything about your life!

Or is that just me?

Anyway, here’s what the psychologists say about ‘gifting’:

1 Type of gift: recipient-centric or giver-centric? Apparently, researchers say that most people think people prefer recipient-centric gifts—in fact, the opposite may be true. They found that gifts, which are symbolic of the gift giver are more highly appreciated. Therefore, rather than giving your loved one those eco-friendly takeaway coffee cups they’ve seen everyone walking around with; it might be more appreciated if you got them funky hand-made wallet you saw in a favourite store of yours.

2 Money: researchers say while giving money might lessen the risk of disappointment it can send the wrong message—it may also fail to convey intimacy, or worse still, reinforce to the recipient about the unequal status between you and the receiver. (Tip: if you receive cash, do put it in a safe place, and not stuffed in your bag that’s left overnight on the back of a chair—only to wake to discover that your dog urgently ‘needed some cash’ devoured the whole lot, including biting holes in your credit cards.)

3 How to react to a bad gift: defuse the situation by just saying ‘thank you’. Don’t over-egg the pudding by saying this is the BEST travel iron you’ve ever received, and, you’ll keep it on display just to show it off to others! Researchers have found that even if people know that the thank you isn’t really that genuine—the very fact of saying it was cited as the most important thing.

4 How much to spend? Researchers say that Christmas is perceived as a time when you should spend lots on others—but it’s not just the amount you spend either. One study found that when people were randomly assigned to spend on others they were far happier than those who were assigned to spend money on themselves.

5 It’s not all about presents: Although, we are trained to think Christmas is all about gifts—it doesn’t necessarily lead to mirth and feelings of cheer. Researchers found that people who focused on the social aspects of Christmas—catching up with friends, family, or following traditional/religious rituals—reported greater levels of happiness than people who associated Christmas with spending money and receiving gifts.

So if you are like me and giving (and especially receiving) gifts is a bit of a minefield—stop, re-set and rethink. Christmas is, and should be, about the gift you give of yourself to others in terms of time, thought and kindness—you’ll be happier for it too, and if you are happier, hopefully, those people close to you will be too—and that really is the most precious gift of all.


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