STRANGE GIFTS - The Gift of Wanting, The Gift of
We have all heard since we were small, "It's better to give
than to receive," and most have come to believe this, and to
appreciate the joy of giving unto others.
But there's another side to that coin.
What about when you WANT to give someone something, and they
just don't want or need anything? This is particularly
frustrating when it's a gift-giving occasion, like Christmas, a
birthday, an anniversary, or some other special time.
Many people, particularly older people, have already gotten
all the "things" they want, and they just can't think of
anything else they want or need.
You say, "Dad, what do you want for your birthday?" or
"Grandma, what do you want for Christmas?" and they answer, "Oh,
I don't know. I really don't need anything." Or even worse, "Oh,
nothing really. You don't need to worry about me."
They think they're being nice.
Chances are you have done the same thing on occasion.
But when it's done to you, when someone tells you they don't
want anything, or they don't really need anything, IT'S
THE STRANGE GIFTS:
You really can't control what other people do. You can
influence, but you can't control. But you CAN
control what YOU do.
If you'd like to avoid being this kind of frustration to
other people, what you can do right now is to
begin making a list of things you might like to have.
I'd suggest making the list in a text editor to start. This
is very easy to open and to edit, and you can put a shortcut to
it on your desktop so it's easy to get to.
On this list, add items in different cost categories: Under
$10, $10-$25, $25-$50, $50-$100, $100-$500. $500-$1,000, and
over $1,000. Hey, may as well dream big, right?
As you list each item, you should also list next to it a
suggested place to get the item, and the price you've checked
out that you can get it for.
It should be an ongoing project for you, something you update
whenever you see or think of something you might like to have.
Include on this list EVERYTHING you think of, things ranging
from small to large, such as Nylon Bowl Scraper from
Williams-Sonoma; DVD of Live Fast Die Hard; 4GB USB Key; Rainbow
socks with individual toes; a pair of khaki dockers in size
34-32 - Penney's is a good place, about $28; A family portrat of
Bob, Julie, and their kids; a Canon 75-300mm f1.7 zoom lens from
Wolf Camera for $1499, etc.
Then, when anyone asks "What do you want for your birthday?"
You can just print them out a copy of that list. As you give it
to them, say something like, "Just something small from this
list would be wonderful, there's probably something on there
that would suit."
Does that sound greedy to you? It did to me when I first
thought about it. But on second thought, it occurred to me that
I was giving them a gift!
Think about this and see if you agree - when someone asks you
the question what can they get you for _____? two things are
obvious: (1) they WANT to get you a gift; and (2) they have no
clue what to give you.
If you tell them "Nothing" or "I don't know" or "I don't need
anything" or "Please don't worry about it," what you have just
done is to intensely frustrate them. You have frustrated their
urge to give you something, and you have frustrated their
request for you to help them out.
If you manage to convince them not to give you anything, then
what you have truly done is to STEAL from them the opportunity
to feel good by giving.
In other words, by trying to not SEEM selfish or
gift-wanting, your are denying that person the joy of giving,
and are actually being MORE selfish.
On the other hand, if you give them your gift list, you can
"not seem selfish" by pointing out you really do want that $4.97
nylon spatula, in Red, from Target, because it would go
wonderfully with your new kitchen theme. But at the same time,
if they really REALLY want to get you something nicer, they have
the whole list to pick from.
The bottom line here is that by trying to not seem selfish
and trying to deflect gift-to-you-giving, you are actually
coming off as being more selfish in that you are putting your
own image ahead of someone else's joy in giving.
So to avoid that, put together a Gifts-I-Would-Like list, and
when someone asks you "What would you like for your
anniversary?" give them a copy. If you have a preference, let
them know that as well, but leave it up to them.
To underscore how true this is, put the shoe on the other
foot. You ask your sister what she'd like for her birthday. You
really love your sister, and you know she's given so much to her
family and her community for so long, you just want to do
something for her, but don't know what. Imagine how you'd feel
if she said, "Oh, I don't want anything, thanks anyway!" And
imagine how you'd feel if instead she handed you a list with
about 25 items on it, and said "Oh, you are SO NICE! Thank you!
This item here is a Chocolate Cookbook for about $3.98 used on
Amazon, I've been dying to try out some of those recipes! If you
can't find that, then there's this list of other stuff, or just
don't worry about it, I appreciate you just thinking of me."
She has just given you a gift: the gift of YOUR joy in giving
her something she wants, the gift of HOURS of saved aggravation
trying to figure out what she might like; the gift of more time
saved in looking for where to buy the thing, and the gift of
possible alternatives if that doesn't work out.
You feel much better for giving her a gift she wants, and you
have saved a lot of time and effort.
THE GIFT OF ACCEPTANCE:
The natural follow-on to this is gracious gift acceptance.
Many people don't quite know what to do when someone gives
them a gift. So they blush and stammer and thank the giver.
That's all fine, but what's not fine is to go overboard saying
"You shouldn't have!" or even worse, "This is too much. I can't
accept this." or even giving it back saying you don't want it.
(I have had that happen several times).
Sheesh! Everyone receives some gifts they don't want at
times! If you don't want it, at least be nice to the giver! Hang
on to it for a year, then quietly dispose of it. (Don't give it
back to the person who gave it to you, unless they can really
take a joke!)
Mostly, there are two things to do in gift acceptance: (1)
Thank the giver, profusely but not too much. Too much will be
seen as sarcasm and will be insulting. The level of thanks
should be proportional to the gift. You wouldn't thank someone
the same for giving you a peppermint as you would if they bought
you a steak dinner. (2) If appropriate, express appreciation
later, in front of others. For example, in March you tell
everyone at a family reunion, "This is a great tripod my wife
got me for my birthday! I really love it!"
Do some thinking on the two types of STRANGE GIFTS I mention
here. Think about giving someone the gift of letting them know
what they can give you; and think about giving someone the gift
of accepting their gift to you. I believe you'll agree with me.