Xavier’s hierarchy of gift-giving

Gift-giving, done right, should be a both difficult and thoroughly enjoyable experience. The best gift is 1. something a person wouldn’t or couldn’t buy for themselves, 2. something that reflects a deep understanding of who the recipient is, as a person, and 3. something that only you could or would think to give. So, in the spirit of the Christmas season and as someone who genuinely loves giving gifts, some (inexhaustive) thoughts on gift-giving.

5. Chocolates

Chocolates are my go-to for acquaintances. The perfect thank you for someone who’s done a nice thing for you (like a group who covered for me while I gallivanted around Brisbane one week), I’ve been giving teachers and lecturers boxes of chocolate since time immemorial (you can thank my mum for raising me that way) and, one day when I was in a particularly good mood, I brought chocolate for an entire class. Literally no downside. Everybody loves chocolate. Nobody doesn’t deserve chocolate. Stock up.

4. Food

One of the best gifts I received this year was, amongst other things, a jar of table olives from a family whose boys I tutor. The risk involved in giving food (that you might give something disliked by the recipient) also goes to the heart of the payoff (the potential to demonstrate knowledge of the recipient’s tastes). I really like olives, but I never buy them. Serious question: who doesn’t love food?

3. Flowers

Flowers work as a gift because there’s absolutely no practical use for them and their value is definitely sentimental. You also wouldn’t ordinarily give flowers to an acquaintance, so the giving of flowers signals a level of closeness and friendship that can itself be significant. I’m also going to go out on a limb and suggest, it’s fine to give flowers to both women and men – I certainly wouldn’t be disappointed to receive flowers! (in an appropriate context)

2. Photographs

Not much in this world beats a framed photograph. What’s more, in this digital age, who even goes to the trouble of printing photos? That’s a practically veritable guarantee that your gift will stand out and it demonstrates at least some degree of thought, planning and effort. Best of all, the right photo is something that 1. captures a special moment in time shared between people, and 2. is unique to those people. Easily ticks all three ‘perfect gift’ boxes.

1. Books

Giving someone the right book is a challenge that requires a level of closeness and familiarity that encapsulates everything good about gift-giving. That book is a book that the recipient will want to read, will actually enjoy, but doesn’t already own. You have to have an idea of their interests, what they read and why. Some of the best and worst gifts I’ve ever received have been books for these exact reasons. High risk, high reward. Bonus points if you sign the book with a detailed personal message (the surest sign of confidence in a gift a person can have is to render it unreturnable).

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