According to recent research carried out on behalf of the department store Debenhams by Professor Karen Pine, we can get it right every time if we apply some basic principles to the gift buying process.
The first step to getting a gift that fits the bill is to really listen to the messages the recipient is giving you. People often give out information about their likes and dislikes without realising, for example, they may often say how cold they feel, or that a band is playing nearby, or they may be talking about the great gift they are going to buy for someone else and why. These are all clues (some more subtle than others) about what they may like themselves.
In addition to listening, really watch what makes the recipient happy. Which websites do they browse, which tv programmes to they enjoy, what do they gravitate towards when you're out shopping, which shop windows do they stop at and what are they looking at and which shops do they go inside? These are big clues about what they like - particularly if they return to something several times.
Putting some effort into obtaining the perfect gift often goes a long way. If you have searched high and low to get the perfect jumper in their favourite colour it will be obvious to them. If you picked up a box of chocolates while doing the supermarket shopping that will also be obvious.
The more effort you put in to obtaining a gift that reflects the person you're buying for, the greater the likelihood that it will be loved! And remember, sometimes quite simple gifts can be customised with a bit of effort. So for example, a photo frame in itself is unlikely to go down well, however taking the time to print out their favourite photo or taking a photo they would like to fit the frame shows that you've put some real thought and effort into the gift and is likely to be a real winner!
Think about the receiver and what they might feel when opening your gift. Try not to get too caught up in the cost of the gift as research suggests that while givers worry about this, receivers tend to think more about the effort and thought that has gone into a gift.
A word of caution: don't simply buy your loved one something that YOU like. This is actually very common because we like to think that our friends and family like the same things as us. This is not always the case, so make sure that you've taken the time to properly listen and observe to ensure you don't fall down this trap!
Generosity is good for you!
Remember - generosity in all forms (be it volunteering time, giving gifts, donating money, etc) strengthens our bonds with others and makes us feel more connected socially - both of these are really important for our mental and physical health.
Many rules about giving and receiving and the appropriateness of gifts exist in our culture and both giving and receiving gifts can surprisingly create anxiety in others. Applying the simple principles above can really help make giving and receiving a joyous experience for all.
And being generous has been shown to bring health and happiness to the giver - perhaps something to remember when you're pounding the streets looking for the perfect gifts this Christmas!