Christmas is an occasion for relaxation, celebration, and gift-giving.

But, the wrong gift can cause stress and anxiety. A gift that is not right can do more damage than good.

This advice is based on decades of research.

Why gift?

According to research into gift-giving psychology, there are two main goals for gift-giving

Make the recipient happy. It all depends on what gift they want.

Second, the goal is to build relationships between the receiver and the giver. This can be achieved by giving thoughtful and memorable gifts demonstrating that you care about the recipient. This allows you to figure out what someone wants without having to ask.

It is simple to see the problem.

The best way to obtain your desired gift is to ask for it. This is a highly recommended approach. This approach is not intended to convey thoughtfulness.

This graphic illustrates the problem with me as an example receiver.

The best gift is one that the receiver appreciates and is thoughtful. This could be a custom-made T-shirt with an inside joke.

It is the worst gift because it isn’t appreciated or thoughtful. It might be a pair of socks.

You can also choose to give unwishful or cash, which is not as thoughtful but useful gifts. This would be an official designation in my honor as an astronomy star. This is not something I would do. Astronomy is my passion.

Navigating social risk

Gift-buying can lead to anxiety. You can take a “social risk”.

The quality of the relationship between giver and receiver can be improved by a well-received gift increasing feelings, bonding, commitment, and connection. Unreceived gifts can lead to the exact opposite.

This has been proven by research. A 1999 survey asked 129 people to describe the circumstances under which they received gifts. Ten respondents said that gift-giving had hurt their relationships. Two people broke up after receiving the gift.

What does it mean?

Studies show that people underestimate their abilities to predict the likes and gifts of others.

Participants were asked to recall their weddings and the weddings of their guests. Gift recipients were asked to rate how much they appreciated the gifts on their gift registry. The gift recipients were asked to rate the quality of gifts received.

Gift recipients prefer to receive gifts that are already on their gift lists. Gift givers sometimes assume that gifts not on their list are more thoughtful and considerate.

Gift-givers are often mistaken to believe that gifts of greater value will be more appreciated than those of lesser quality. Gift recipients are equally open to receiving both expensive and inexpensive gifts. They are more comfortable with gifts that offer convenience, such as gift vouchers to local restaurants, than with those that are expensive.

The psychology of cash

Why not just give cash?

The recipient can buy whatever they like. Cash is easy to give because it requires no effort and seems to put a dollar value on the relationship.

In Chinese culture, it is traditional to give cash in a red envelope to decommodify cash. You can be creative with cash gifts. It could be done through clever origami or other creative ways to personalize it. This will show more thoughtfulness.

Gift cards are the next best thing to cash. Although it takes effort, gift cards allow for thoughtfulness in choosing the right gift card. Research shows that gift cards are rarely used as an alternative to cash.

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