It’s The Thought That Counts

Most of us have probably been there; We opened up a gift to find something that wasn’t to our tastes. We’ll try to convince ourselves that it’s the thought that counts and either put on a happy face or go through the apprehension of asking for a receipt. I’m not sure how much thought is put into some gifts however. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful or anything, but I reckon that if you know a person well you have a pretty good chance of getting something they like. It might not be that thing you’ve been dropping hints on all year, but it still says ‘you.’ For example, I’ve received a few presents that look as if they’ve come from a ‘gifts for her’ range, most of which is stereotypical and pink. It’s the kind of stuff that I’m not a fan of and something that my close family and friends are aware of. Although it’s cool with things like Bubble Bath, because I don’t treat myself to that stuff anyway and Christmas is my stock-up time. I’ve also received the odd gift that feels more like a hint that they think you need to change your life in some way, which doesn’t always go down so well depending on the implication. Another problem that I have is that I’m running low on space and I don’t want to have to add things that I’m not keen on, but at the same time I feel too guilty to get rid of stuff that people have bought for me. I’ve hung onto small things given to me years ago because I know somebody went through the hassle of getting it for me.

One way to ensure everybody gets what they want is to swap Christmas lists, but it just becomes an exchange of similar value goods while also taking away the joy of surprise. As children it makes more sense to ask for what you want because you can’t otherwise afford to get it, but as adults we can either buy what we want more easily or we’re struggling for cash and keeping the money would actually be preferable. We’ve previously bought games for each other on our Steam wishlists, but because you can check the prices so easily you just end up sending something equivalent in return. Maybe it’s me missing the point with this, but we could have just bought what we wanted for ourselves instead. The other issue is that not everybody can afford to spend the same amount on presents, but if you have that one person that goes overboard everybody else is left feeling awkward if they can’t match it. Although really, some of us enjoy giving more than receiving and don’t expect as much in return. I like to think that the people who are worth knowing would be understanding if you couldn’t get them much.

As a kid I looked forward to getting presents and I won’t deny it’s a nice surprise, but what I love about it is more to do with how it brings us all together. We take a while, opening our presents up one at a time, and this gives us an opportunity to catch up. I particularly look forward to playing games together such as Monopoly, Cluedo and Articulate – my family is pretty big on holding quizzes. We don’t keep up with it the rest of the year because we’re all so busy and in a rush all the time. As a kid you don’t always appreciate these moments when compared to the idea of getting new toys to play with, but as you get older you start to realize how important it is.

I can’t afford to get people much, but I like to create my own Christmas cards and art for people. It might not seem as exciting as a new toy, but putting the time and effort into it is my way of showing I care. I’d rather only do this for the people I am closest to so that I can focus on getting them great gifts, as opposed to buying things that people don’t really want or need out of obligation. All throughout the year I take mental notes of what I notice about people, so then I know what to get them when the time comes. I think it’s a struggle for many of us to listen and to be there for each other in our busy lives, so for me it only has to be a small token, but a great gift is the one that shows they really were paying attention and care about who I am. For example, I once received a copy of the book Little Miss Stubborn, which brought a smile to my face. The emotional value of a gift can outweigh its monetary value.

It seems odd, but all of this awkwardness in giving gifts can give me slight apprehension. Even with everything I’ve just written I’m not too fussy. It’d be unfair to expect others to be able to find something that suits our tastes and needs perfectly. A gift is a treat that we otherwise wouldn’t have had, and so it’s good to be grateful all the same.

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About wallcat

I have a strong passion for computing. In particular programming for which I am able to use a variety of languages including C++, Visual C#, Blitz Basic, Actionscript 2.0, Python and Lua. I also enjoy web-design and have some knowledge of HTML/CSS, PHP/SQL and Javascript. As well as programming I have a strong background in art and enjoy drawing in my spare time. When I’m not sat at my computer I like to keep fit by going to the gym or using my exercise ball.

4 responses to “It’s The Thought That Counts”

  1. Pasduil says :

    I for one certainly appreciate small thoughtful gifts from people who I know can’t afford much. Generally they know it would be fine with me if they’d got me nothing at all, and therefore it’s doubly appreciated that they still wanted to give something.

    Sometimes it can be hard to pick a good gift even if you know a person pretty well. One the one hand, if you’ve always made out that you liked the generic pink gifts you got, people may have just taken that at face value and assumed that’s a good choice, On the other, even if they know you love video games for example, if they’re not into that themselves, they don’t know what to pick, what you already have etc. So I tend to be chilled if people did their best and got it wrong.

    Speaking as an uncle of a bunch of nieces and nephews, I can tell you that I like honest feedback on what they loved and what they found meh. By now, I’m way beyond having my feelings hurt if someone didn’t absolutely love my present. I just want to know how it went so I can fine tune my future gift-giving.

    • wallcat says :

      Yeah, you make some good points. I don’t really expect anything to do with my main hobbies because like you say, not everybody knows about that stuff or what you might already own. Plus it can be pretty expensive. For people that enjoy giving they like to see the other person’s face light up, and it can be really disappointing for them when that doesn’t happen. There’s this fear of seeming ungrateful or hurting the other person’s feelings that makes it difficult to be honest, although we could see these moments as an opportunity to get to know each other better. There are times when you have no choice but to be honest – like with clothes – but I find that I can still show how much I appreciate the thought even though I’ll need to get it swapped.

      When I see people getting stressed around Christmas I always try to make it clear to them that It doesn’t have to be perfect and they don’t even have to get me anything. It means far more to me just to get the chance to spend good quality time together, when it is so rare the rest of the year round.

      • Pasduil says :

        When you think about it, it’s all kinda sweet. People give you gifts because they want to make you happy. And you pretend to love the gifts they picked because you want to make them happy also.

        It’s actually quite charming when young nieces and nephews are trying to be nice like that. Little do they realize that a) my ego is not all that bound up with whether they liked a particular present, and b) they’re not so great at faking it anyway, whereas I’m rather good at reading them!

        The best feedback really comes from my sisters after the event, when I check if they actually played with the thing / read the book / would like more of the same etc.

        But I certainly wouldn’t tell someone I didn’t really like their gift unless I was confident in my being able to do it in a way that doesn’t hurt any feelings, and sure that they’ll take it in the right way. Otherwise you can say things like “It’s very nice, but I have too many Xs as it is really. Would it be possible to exchange it… maybe for a Y…”.

        And when people say things like that to you, you can pretend to believe them, and say “Why of course! I have the receipt right here somewhere.” 🙂

        Though of course sometimes they’re not even pretending! These days I have don’t have storage space for all the things that I love, and it is actually pretty hard to justify having more of almost any kind of thing!

      • wallcat says :

        Yeah it is really. It’s wonderful that we care enough about each others feelings to try and treat the situation with care. A couple of years ago I got something that I knew I’d never want to wear, but they were expecting to see me with it on. I was really worried about hurting their feelings, but knew I couldn’t fake it. They ended up being really cool about it so I guess I needn’t have been so worried. So long as we tell them in the right way it doesn’t have to be a big deal. Same issue here, really low on storage space now. When I get a lot of new things on Birthdays and Christmas I usually have to do a major tidy up at the same time to find a place for evrything.

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