The politics of gift giving
WITH Christmas around the corner, we need to talk about the delicate art of gift-giving.
The politics here are endless. Each party needs to be vaguely matched in their mutual exchange.
You need to convey thought and sentiment without looking like a show-off or a cheapskate.
And let's not even get started on the turmoil of the One-Sided Gift Exchange.
If the whole gifting process makes you a bit nervous, you're in luck.
Research published by Carnegie Mellon's Tepper School of Business and Indiana University's Kelley School of Business has analysed the big dos and don'ts of gift-giving.
The study examines the awkward moment when you give something you think is excellent, and the recipient's response is ... totally anticlimactic.
It said when you give a gift, you need to think less about the person's initial reaction, and more about how much use they will actually get from it over time.
"Givers primarily focus on the moment of the exchange," write researchers Jeff Galak, Julian Givi and Elanor F. Williams.
"Recipients instead mostly focus on how valuable a gift will be throughout their ownership of it. Givers and receivers have different perspectives on what makes a gift 'valuable.'"
In other words, 'in-joke' presents or sexy-but-impractical gifts are a big no-no.
Bear in mind that you're taking a bigger gamble with physical gifts. Unless the recipient has specifically asked for it, you may end up disappointing them.
Recipients are also less likely to enjoy unrequested gifts (stick to The List!), anything unique but impractical, or socially responsible.
With all this in mind, what the hell do we get our loved ones this Christmas?
The study found that recipients favour gifts that are experiences over material gifts.
"Experiences are usually consumed after an exchange, whereas material gifts are frequently ready for use as soon as they are opened," the authors explain.
"Further, material gifts are more likely to be something that can be given to and opened by the recipient.
"To that end, givers are likely to favour material gifts because of their immediate utility.
"In contrast, experiential gifts, though actually preferred by recipients, are avoided by givers as they seem less likely to elicit a strong positive response at the moment of exchange."
You may be better off treating your mate to a nice dinner out or a spa treatment than that TV box set they've already torrented illegally and watched anyway.
Alternatively, just opt for the lazy-but-convenient "cash with class" - a gift card.
It might feel meaningless, but it could spare you a whole lot of passive-aggressive attitude.
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