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What Makes Me… a Good Gift-Giver?

According to five experts in their field—including a celebrity matchmaker and a professional Santa Claus

In this installment of our “What Makes Me a…” column, we asked five people what they think makes someone a good gift-giver. In the end, it really does seem that it’s the thought that counts… unless you’re MEL staff writer Tracy Moore, in which case it’s asking her what she wants that really counts.

Alessandra Conti, celebrity matchmaker: A good gift-giver isn’t a millionaire who gives an assistant a budget to buy their friends and family generic Christmas gifts. A good gift-giver is someone who is always on the lookout for things that could make their friends and family happy throughout the year. Maybe it’s at a little shop that they visit while they’re out in the country. Or a little figurine that reminds them of an inside joke that they have with their significant other. The actual gift rarely matters. As clichéd as it sounds, it is the thought that counts. It’s the fact that the person was thinking of them while they were doing something else.

Tracy Moore, MEL staff writer: Gift-givers are really selfish. I know how that sounds, but hear me out: Gift-givers want to do something nice for you, sure, but they also want to show you how great they are. And some of them do this by buying you things they actually want for themselves, or things they think you should want, whether they have any idea what you want, need or care about!

It’s maddening. It constantly puts you in the position of having to be polite and act grateful, then figure out what to do with their perfectly fine or actually egregious gift, meanwhile never letting on that you didn’t like it, and definitely didn’t immediately toss it into an open manhole cover.

Gifts shouldn’t be burdens, and gift-givers don’t understand this any more than they do that you don’t want a bottle-opener keychain.

A good gift-giver has a huge responsibility, not the other way around. You should probably try to actually figure out what this person you think so fondly of actually wants or needs. Do they like useful gifts? Do they prefer frivolous gifts? Do they like expensive gifts? Do they think handmade tokens of affection are more meaningful?

The trouble is, gift-receivers are often just as bad as gift-givers. Some people actually want to be surprised with super-meaningful gifts (hint: have their minds read) based on their weird idiosyncratic preferences (me). Some people want to be asked exactly what they want (also me, sometimes), and other people would prefer, if we’re really being honest, to just be given some cash (me).

Your job as a good gift-giver is to basically CSI this shit to figure out the right gift. Determine the type of person you’re dealing with, determine the type of gift they actually want, by either indirect methods (stalking, guessing, reading their social, scanning the contents of their home, remembering conversations you’ve had) or direct methods (asking them point-blank), and then determining whether this matches with the type of gift-receiver they are (do they want to be asked or have you play psychic). Only then will your gift truly be good.

If all this sounds like a royal pain in your ass, please join my protest against gift-giving so we can finally call the whole thing off.

Sabrina Gaggia, account executive at Cece Feinberg PR: Oftentimes people think more about themselves instead of the person they’re buying a gift for, which is understandable, because you don’t want to buy someone a gift that you don’t personally like. But making the purchase more about the person who will be receiving it will always result in a better gift.

I also think adding a bit of a personal touch to the gift goes a long way — adding a note or even a $5 Starbucks gift card for that soy nonfat mocha latte they love so much.

One last thing a good gift-giver should always keep in mind is the functionality of the gift — if you can gift something that’s cute and useful, your gift will definitely go a long way!

Ashley Manta, cannabis-friendly sexuality educator: I’d say what makes someone a good gift giver is paying attention and giving gifts that align with someone’s love language (receiving gifts, acts of service, physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation). Some folks like gifts like jewelry or tech. Others prefer experiential gifts, like a weekend away or a night of fine dining. Some just want a handwritten card with some genuine loving sentiments expressed inside. Still others might prefer that you take their car to get it detailed, or clean their house while they’re at work. Figure out what is most likely to resonate with your partner and brainstorm from there!

Santa Greg, professional Santa Claus: When it comes from the heart, it lasts the longest. People remember forever how you made them feel, and they forget the gift and time and image very quickly.