Do you fear what I fear? A minefield of disappointments, hurt feelings, and overwhelm. Add the mindboggling over-spending. Throw in a big heap of indecision.
Gift-giving anxiety is rampant. It sucks playing Santa! So many to buy for and so little time. And it appears we’re not good at it either – we want to delight in the short term, make the recipient instantly happy, rather than keeping in mind long-term satisfaction, reports a study from Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business.
And we’ll spend lots trying to win that smile: According to PwC’s 2018 Holiday Outlook Report, spending is up nearly 4%, and Canadian consumers are spending an average of $1,563 for the holidays this year.
Well, navigating the overwhelm this final week can really take its toll. Actually cardiac mortality is highest this time of year – you’re risk of dying on Christmas, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day go up by a whopping 5%, according to research published in Circulation journal.
With that in mind, you may want to avoid the busiest shopping day of the year – December 21 at exactly 11 a.m. That intense experience in itself could possibly increase heart rates and deliver a sleighload of unhealthy stress.
According to Sharon Schweitzer, etiquette expert and founder of Access to Culture, “gift-giving is less about the gift and much more about the feelings it produces.”
Unfortunately hurt feelings can abound – and we dread receiving the bad gift as much as giving it. According to Barry Schwartz, author of The Social Psychology of Gifts, which appeared in the American Journal of Sociology: “Gifts are one of the ways in which the pictures others have of us are transmitted. Of course, the gift doesn’t just reveal the image the giver has of you; it exposes the character and the thinking of the giver as well.”
The gift exchange frenzy is on! “It’s best to have no expectation when it comes to receiving holiday gifts,” adds Schweitzer. You might not get it right but at least practice some good gift giving etiquette with tips from Schweitzer:
* Don’t try to price match. It’s not a contest. “Avoid matching spending, because that’s when gift-giving is driven more by pressure than by thoughtfulness,” says Schweitzer.
* Avoid asking “What do you want?” unless it’s family members. For friends and others, consider their hobbies or what’s important in their lives. If you ask, they’ll feel obligated to reciprocate – and you’ve just added to their to-do list and expenses.
* Check your list and check it twice. When was the last time you saw your sister’s boyfriend’s mother’s best friend? “People come in and out of our lives.” Ask yourself how has your relationship grown and evolved? Have you kept in touch via phone, email, or seen each other in person? Schweitzer says to let friends know you’re thinking of them by sending a holiday card with a special message.
* Include the gift receipt. This is an etiquette best-practice for any gift year round. It could be the wrong size or colour – why make it difficult for them, says Schweitzer, of protocolww.com. Send the message that if the gift isn’t right, you’d like them to have something they enjoy.
* Be genuine when you receive an unexpected gift – and you’re empty handed. “Say that you are surprised, and maybe slightly embarrassed that you don’t have a gift ready for them,” says Schweitzer. “You may wish to send a thank you note with a small gift wishing them all the best in the coming year.”
* A mug for them, a Pandora bracelet for you! Most splurge gift buyers have everything they could wish for, and aren’t expecting you to reciprocate. “It’s better to plan a thoughtful, sentimental gift without a hefty price tag,” says Schweitzer, adding that if you really under spent, consider treating your friend to a meal or coffee, and send a handwritten thank you note.
* Re-gift immediately – just don’t get caught. Re-gifting is socially acceptable, just be sure to re-gift in different social and family circles, she says. Remove all traces of the original giving. And don’t hold on to an unwanted gift too long or you may forget who gave it to you and accidentally give it back to them. If you get caught, own up to it and acknowledge that the gift better served someone else. For example: “My sister gave this fabulous cookbook and you are the best chef I know. Since I already have this edition, I thought you would enjoy this newest version. If I offended you, I apologize.”
What makes Christmas merry? Well it’s not the gifts!
According to research by Tim Kasser and Kennon Sheldon:
* Family time * Religious activities
* Maintaining traditions
* Buying gifts
* Receiving gifts
* Helping others
*Holiday Food and Drinks
This piece by Joanne Richard was originally published on ‘Canoe.com‘, 16 December 2018.