The holiday season is here.
For many of us, it’s time to start thinking about finding gifts for the important people in our lives.
Finding the right gifts can be time-consuming and stressful—and you still might not end up getting something they really want.
How can you know what people really want?
Research has shown that it comes down to 3 basic things.
1. What they ask for
We often assume that the best gifts have to come as a surprise.
Most people do like surprises, and picking out a gift for someone shows that you are thoughtful and considerate.
But this isn’t exactly what the evidence shows.
Research has repeatedly shown that people tend to appreciate receiving gifts that they picked out for themselves significantly more than “surprise” gifts.
But what about the gift being thoughtful and considerate? People actually tend to perceive gifts that they picked out for themselves as more thoughtful and considerate than “surprise” gifts.
2. Something meaningful
Many of the best gifts reflect the recipient’s likes and interests.
A gift reflecting their interests shows that you really know them well. This can strengthen your relationship, and make you feel closer.
(And even if you’re unsure what they’re interested in, it really doesn’t hurt to ask, see above).
But that’s not the whole story.
Research finds that people say that they prefer to give gifts that reflect the recipient’s interests, and to receive gifts that reflect their own.
The same research also finds that people feel much closer to each other after giving or receiving a gift that reflects the giver’s interests.
The initial thrill of a specific gift wears off, but the benefits of a closer relationship can last for years. Give the gift of you.
Gifts aren’t just physical things to give people.
Think about the anticipation of a “surprise” gift or the feelings of closeness that a thoughtful gift can generate.
The experience of giving or receiving a gift is one of the best parts. This tells us something important.
As we mentioned earlier, the initial thrill of a gift wears off over time.
The same is not true when it comes to experiences. The memories last…and may even get better with time.
Keep in mind that such gifts could be as simple as a nice meal, a trip to a museum or movie, even a vacation someplace nice.
When it comes to long-term value, many of the best gifts aren’t actually physical things, per se.