Every September, I find myself facing one of the most stressful decisions of the year: what to give my wife for her birthday.
I don’t think I’m alone in those feelings. It’s hard to give good gifts to the people we love. It’s hard to find something meaningful. It’s difficult to pair the right gift with the perfect person for the appropriate occasion.
But it’s so satisfying when you get it right. The reaction is priceless: a face lit up with joy, a look that says “How did you know?”, a shared smile. When you have chosen a gift well, you feel like you really understand someone. That shared understanding makes the bond between you feel even stronger.
I don’t always get it right, but when I keep the following guidelines in mind, I tend to have less stress and more satisfaction with my gift-giving. I think you will too.
Align with Their Interests
It seems simple enough: if you know what someone is interested in, you should be able to get them something that fits that interest perfectly.
But this line of thinking is where we often get stuck. And that’s because people often have many things that already fit their interests. So we agonize over whether our gift is something that they already possess–or worse, whether they have something similar, only better.
That’s why it’s a good idea to choose a gift that aligns with a person’s interests, rather than one that fits within their interests.
Take a step back to place that interest in context. Ask yourself if there’s a common theme or element to that person’s passions. If you can figure out why someone is into something, then you might be able to find a gift in a related area, different enough from their interests to make it unique while being similar enough to still suit them.
If you have a friend who loves yoga, instead of getting her a mat or an outfit, stop to consider the reasons why she does it. If she’s practicing yoga for her health, perhaps she’d like a cookbook that aligns with her dietary choices. If she enjoys the meditative aspect, perhaps she would appreciate a beautiful hand bound journal to capture her thoughts.
Speak Their Love Language
The right gift speaks directly to a person’s heart. But to speak to someone’s heart, you first have to know the right language.
Marriage counselor Gary Chapman originally wrote The Five Love Languages for spouses, but he has since expanded his books into all sorts of contexts, from family to school to the workplace to the military. His system for understanding the ways that people share and receive love can be a powerful tool when you are searching for the right way to give someone a gift that they’ll cherish.
Here are some examples of how to speak someone’s love language when deciding what to give them:
- Words of Affirmation – Let them know how much they matter to you. Compose a poem, hand-written just for them.
- Quality Time – Give them the gift of your time and full attention. Take them out for an experience you both can share together.
- Acts of Service – Helpful acts can often speak louder than words. Give them a personalized coupon book to help them in areas where they could use a break.
- Physical Touch – Find something that nourishes and pampers their skin. It might be a soft pashmina, a luxurious hand cream, or a professional massage.
- Receiving Gifts – For this type of person, the act of receiving the gift can be as powerful as the gift itself. Whatever you give them, make sure that it includes great wrapping and a rewarding unboxing experience. Bonus points if you choose something that can remind them of you every time they use it or see it.
If you’re not sure of a person’s love language, or if you feel like they have several ways of receiving love, there are ways to combine several love languages. A girls’ night out for mani-pedis and drinks can strike a chord for people who enjoy physical touch, quality time, and even words of affirmation.
At Handcrafted Honey Bee, we have specifically designed our DIY skin care kits with the love languages in mind. Whether you’re pouring lip balms together or mixing a custom clay mask facial for a girls’ night in, crafting your own skin care can be a chance for quality time, nourishing physical touch and a pampering act of service. We package each kit to feel like a beautiful gift, complete with a great unboxing experience. And we always tuck in an affirmation card to speak words of affirmation to someone who needs it most.
Understand Their Values
You want your gift to deepen the connection between you and the recipient. The best way to connect is to show them that you understand the things that they value. You may not value the same things, but the giving will be appreciated most when it is focused on the things that they treasure.
For the person that values lovely handmade objects, find something with a story that you can connect to the hands that made it. For a friend who is mindful of her health, find something with natural ingredients. For someone who loves to be surrounded by beautiful things, find something well-designed and aesthetically pleasing. For the socially-conscious person, perhaps make a donation in their name to a cause they believe in.
It is important to avoid imposing your values on the person receiving your gift. It may feel like you are sharing your interests with them, but you are really making the gift about you instead of them. And selflessness and generosity is the whole point of giving, isn’t it?
Honor Their Season
It’s good to understand someone’s interests and values, but context matters too. We all have seasons in our lives, whether it’s a time for exploration or a time for focus. A time of freedom or a time of responsibility. A time of activity or a time of repose.
Our interests may stay the same, but we can’t always spend time pursuing all of our interests. A gift that may have been perfect for a friend when she was young and single might go unused when she becomes a new mom. Or a friend might be an avid reader, but her new job is demanding all of her attention and energy.
You might have the perfect gift in mind for someone, but if it’s not the right season, then it’s not the right gift for now. Instead try to find a gift that acknowledges and honors the season that they are in. Maybe that avid reader would like to listen to audio books on her commute?
Ultimately, choosing the right gift requires thoughtfulness, understanding, and a deep desire to know another well enough to give them something that they’ll truly enjoy. But you already knew that.
And if you’re curious…Stacia loved her birthday gifts this year!