GIFTS THAT CONNECT Series: This is the first in a series of posts that will turn your gift-giving into a joy-filled connection experience.

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Gift myths busted in recent research…

“Five studies show that gift recipients are more appreciative of gifts they explicitly request than those they do not.” This is the startling conclusion reported by researchers from Harvard and Stanford in the September, 2011 issue of Journal of Experimental Social Psychology [1. Gino, Francesca and Francis J. Flynn. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 47, Issue 5, September 2011,Pages 915-922]. Even more fascinating was the discrepancy between what gift recipients really want and what gift givers think they want.

  • Gift givers think their recipients want something extravagant and dramatically or creatively presented.
  • What gift recipients really want is something they can use or enjoy…OR something they’ve requested.

I found these conclusions enormously liberating, and so should you!

I’ve always envied those who seem to be so creative in their gift giving. You know the type—the ones who find out you love Italian food and give you an extravagantly stuffed basket of imported food from Italy (in a basket shaped like a gondola), beribboned with the colors of the flag of Italy, delivered in person by an Italian violinist who plays you an Italian love song while you’re opening your gift.

Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating, but if choosing gifts is hard for you, you know what I mean.

I am so simple and straightforward and practical; it never even occurs to me to do anything other than consider what might be useful or pleasurable to the recipient of my gift. All these years, I’ve been thinking this was somehow boring, but now it turns out I’ve been doing what most people want. Woohoo!

Is giving money a cop-out?

These studies busted another myth too: Giving money is not as thoughtful as a purchased gift.  Wrong! Cash is both enjoyed and appreciated as much or more.

But they won’t give me a hint!

You’ll still have those people on your gift list who won’t make a request; or they’ll say, “Oh, I don’t need anything!” Here’s how to get unstuck and think of something wonderful for them:

Connect with this person in your imagination; take just a few minutes to think about his life, his habits, and what you know about his likes and dislikes, his reading preferences, his activities and hobbies, his needs or wants. More often than not, you’ll come up with something that will be just the thing.

Brainstorm for the perfect gift.

If you’re still stumped, consider the following:

  • If she likes to write notes, get her a box of cards or stationery with some postage stamps.
  • If he’s housebound, try a book or DVD movie or a meal delivery.
  • If a couple is downsizing with limited space, they might enjoy something edible or a gift to charity in their honor (a cause they embrace)
  • Stay-at-Home moms might appreciate some babysitting or a girls’ day out.
  • If someone doesn’t drive, take them to the movies or a local concert; offer to take them shopping for clothes.
  • If she’s older, give her a gift of your time and make an appointment to show up to help her with whatever is worrying her the most (e.g., cleaning an attic or garage, going through photographs or letters, gathering her favorite recipes for a family cookbook, balancing her checkbook).
  • An amaryllis bulb (or other flowering bulb) is a reliable people-pleaser.
  • Someone living alone might enjoy a home-cooked meal.
  • Mixes for soups, sauces, and casseroles can be just the thing for a busy professional or single person.

Who’s the hardest person to shop for?

Who is the hardest person to shop for on your list and why? Maybe some of our readers can help you out! Share in the comments below or join the conversation at my Facebook Page.

Check out Heartspoken’s gifts. Our goal for 2012 is to add significantly to the selection, but you’ll find some wonderful and unique items that are sure to be perfect for some of the loved ones on your list.

Photo credit: Kim McLeod, Cann River, Victoria, Australia via Stock.Xchng
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