Is it really the holiday season without opening up at least one questionable Christmas present? Whether its a random ornament or a tacky mug, what do you say when you open a gift you just don’t like?
According to Toronto Etiquette Expert, Lisa Orr, the answer is always ‘thank you.’
“Even if it’s the worst hand-towel you’ve ever seen be gracious because it’s not about the gift itself, it’s about the intention in the act of giving.”
Remember the saying, ‘it’s the thought that counts?’
As one of Canada’s most recognized etiquette experts, Lisa -founder of Orr Etiquette- confirms that the number one rule for the gifting season is to show gratitude. She also reminds us to follow these important gifting tips:
Consider the recipient:
When picking out a gift always keep the recipient in mind. Orr says, “instead of asking yourself, ‘what would I like to get,’ consider what the recipient might like instead.”
Taking the time to find a gift the recipient will appreciate shows that you care, “you can find out a lot about a person on social media and doing your research will help you come up with a thoughtful gift,” Orr says.
And if you are gifting someone who you don’t know well and who doesn’t have an active social media profile, Orr says consumables-gifts are a good idea.
“Consumables are items like teas, coffees, candles – items that you don’t have to own for the rest of your life. You can enjoy it or serve it to other people.”
Orr adds that it’s always good practice to include a gift receipt if you can.”This is good insurance especially for sizing or duplicates…ideally they shouldn’t have to use it.”
And If you receive a gift without a gift receipt Orr says it’s not polite to ask for one.
When Should you refuse a gift?
While Orr stresses the importance of showing gratitude when receiving a gift if you are given something that is inappropriate or offensive you don’t have to accept it.
“If you receive something inappropriate, like lingerie, from a co-worker you can thank them but say you can’t accept it because it makes you uncomfortable,” Orr explains.
Orr believes that regifting has become a more acceptable practice but re-gifters must make certain considerations.
“Regifting is not about getting rid of something you don’t want. A re-gift should still be thoughtful,” Orr says.
The item you are re-gifting must be unused and something you would use yourself or buy for someone else. “Wine, a book, un-opened teas are the types of items you can re-gift.”
And Orr comments that if there’s a possibility for the original gift giver to find out that you have passed the gift on to someone else, you should let the original gifter know.
When presenting a gift, cards and wrapping are just as important as the gift itself. “I think a beautifully written card really tells somebody you care. The gift can be totally wrong but with this added effort it’s clear that they were thinking of you,” Orr says.
Does alcohol make an appropriate gift?
According to the etiquette expert, gifting alcohol is tricky.
“Unless I know the recipient will like it, I won’t gift someone a bottle of alcohol because some people might not drink it for religious or personal reasons.”
Orr applies the same rule to baked goods. “Unless you know the person well It’s hard to know if their home is allergen free or not, so as a safe practice I would stay away from baked goods.
Orr says to consider a lower-risk gift like teas, candles or coffees.
Don’t forget about the holiday parties.
Chances are you’ll be making an appearance at a holiday party or two and Orr says you should be prepared.
The Etiquette Expert keeps a collection of hostess gifts to give out throughout the year, “It’s a lovely gesture to give a little hostess gift when you attend a party. It’s not the scale of the gift it’s the act of saying thank you, and ‘I appreciate you for having me.'”
Keeping thank-you notes in your bag or in the car is also a nice practice that Orr recommends.
“I got this tip from a friend who would, before leaving a party, present the host with a thank-you card… It really does make an impact and it’s very thoughtful.”
If you don’t have thank-you cards with you, you should always make it a point to thank the host afterwards even if it’s electronically. “Digital thank yous are better than no thank you at all,” Orr explains.
So you’ve done your gift research, you included a card, you’ve wrapped it beautifully and your recipient tells you they don’t like it, what do you do? Orr says the best way to tell someone they are being ungracious is by being gracious yourself. “Show them the right way to receive a gift… be thankful when receiving their gift.”
Lisa reminds us that the act of giving is the best gift of all, so if those well-intentioned gift givers miss the mark this year remember to smile and say thank you.