How to Receive a Gift

I spent hours and hours (and hours) today, wrapping the rest of the holiday gifts that have been hanging out in my dining room for nearly two weeks, so I thought I’d go with the gift theme, again. Everyone’s talking about gifts right now anyway, so why not?

Earlier this month I posted 6 Tips for the Gift-Giving Challenged, so if you’re still figuring out what to get for whom this holiday season or you just generally need advice make sure to check that out.

Five years ago I wrote about what I enjoy receiving from someone after I give them a present: nothing but a “thank you.” Honest. I don’t give gifts to get them and I don’t give gifts to make other people feel badly (quite the opposite!). When gifts are given for the right reasons, a simple “thank you” is all that the recipient needs to offer. Read more on that in my original post.

Something I haven’t written about before is RECEIVING gifts. So today, I’m elaborating a little bit on what else to do (and not to do) when you actually get a gift. I’m sure lots of gift etiquette posts already exist out there, but here are my best tips, right off the top of my head.

  1. Unless you’re in the middle of a big event wherein every person is opening gifts as a part of the Grand Plan, it’s a good idea to ask, “Should I open this now?” Some of your friends might want to see your reaction when you open the gift, and some might prefer that you save it for later for a plethora of reasons. Ask, and they’ll let you know what to do.
  2. Try to show a little enthusiasm when you open it up. You definitely don’t have to go over the top, but the giver is probably really excited about what they’ve wrapped up for you and if you respond with the body language equivalent of “meh,” it’s a downer. Eye contact is good. A smile is good. Heck, nod your head and say something like, “This is a great gift. Thanks.”
  3. If you didn’t get them anything, do NOT cry out “I didn’t get you anything!” It’s okay. Truly. I hope that your friends and family members aren’t the type of people who use the holidays as a gift exchange program, present for present, dollar for dollar. Gifts should be given from the heart with no expectation of something in return. If your loved ones are keeping score, I guess you might need to overhaul your process or something. I don’t have that issue so I can’t help you there. (sorry.)
  4. If you already have the item you just opened or, worse, you hate it, put on a good face anyway. Just say thank you. You can figure out what to do with it later. The important thing is the sentiment behind the gift: it’s the thought that counts.
  5. Decide: to regift or not to regift? This is a very personal decision. I usually don’t regift anything these days unless I’m just, out of the blue, giving it to someone (unwrapped) and being completely honest: “I received this from a friend and I already had one but I thought you’d like it!” I know lots of people who love regifting. My other advice here is to be careful. I’ve heard too many stories of a regift gone wrong.

The main thing to remember when receiving a gift is to consider the feelings of the person who was so thoughtful. Saying thank you with a smile on your face is easy. If the gift was highly customized or something super special, respond accordingly.

I think you’re ready to go forth, give, and receive now. Let’s do this!

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