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Dear Heidi: If you don’t like a gift, should you tell the person?

Receiving a gift is an art form. Consider the effort that went into the gift giver's present.

Gift-giving is an art form. To do it well, gift-giving should come from the heart, be appropriate for the occasion, and be presented in the right setting and at the best time.

Gift-giving can be much more involved than one might imagine. In different cultures and situations globally, customs and expectations can vary widely. I’d love to write an article about gifts across cultures, but my response today considers the generalities of social gift-giving.

First, the gift giver must put forth thought and consideration as to what the gift should be. Will it be something the gift giver has made with their hands, or something they had to search for to find just the perfect item? Or, perhaps the gift is an experience, maybe one that is hard to attain, like tickets to a special event.

Receiving a gift is also an art form. Consider all of the effort that went into the present in the first place. Generally speaking, you should receive a gift in the same spirit in which it is given. For example, if your friend gave you a gift for your birthday that took a lot of thought and creativity, recognize that, and be grateful for their thoughtfulness — even if you don’t like the present.

Many of us have received a gift from someone that is not to our taste, something we might not wear or use. I once received a pair of earrings that were simply not my style. They were my friend's style, the gift giver.

I realized that she gave me something that she holds dear, a little piece of her personal style that she wanted to share. So, I accepted the earrings in the spirit she gave them to me — from a place of love and friendship. I told her I loved the earrings, and I did, in a way. I loved the fact that she made an effort to choose them for me because she thought they are beautiful.

I could have responded differently. I could have said to her, “Thank you for your thoughtfulness, but I don’t like them. They're your style, not mine,” and handed them back to her. But I know this would have hurt her feelings. It might even signal that I think my style is superior to hers, which is not at all how I feel. More importantly, I would not want my friend to suffer a loss of face by having me reject her gift.

I kept the earrings and wore them with the attitude that maybe I need to branch out and try other styles. I’m not sure those earrings were ever my favorite, but they did put a smile on my face every time I wore them.

So, please be gracious. Thank someone for their kindness, regardless of the gift. Who knows, you might grow to love it.


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