Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, the end of the year is another time in our calendar when gift-giving is rampant.  There are corporate gifts, teacher gifts, and on and on…

For some of us, GIFT GIVING is a beloved tradition that brings us much joy. But it can also bring us stress!

Talk About Talk #116 - Gift Giving - image shows a person holding a stack of gifts
Image by alexkich via Canva

Does gift giving stress you out?


Yes, I find GIFT GIVING to be stressful. Sometimes it works out, but when it doesn’t… oh boy!

But I have to say, I also love this topic! I’ve done a lot of reading on the topic of GIFT GIVING. I hope my insights will help reduce your stress.  Or if not, at least you’ll be able to look at the whole phenomenon through a slightly different lens!

In this Talk About Talk episode, you’ll learn:

  • How we COMMUNCIATE through gift giving.
  • What to consider when GIVING a gift.
  • What to stop WORRYING about.

What does this gift “say”?

Think about all the times you’ve given or received a gift. Birthday gifts, anniversary gifts, graduation gifts, teacher gifts, hostess gifts… I could go on and on. 

Gift giving is clearly a significant part of our culture. It is also an important form of implicit COMMUNICATION.

Talk About Talk #116 - Gift Giving - quote by Andrea Wojnicki on a turquoise background: "Gift'giving is symbolic. Gifts communicate things about the giver, about the giver's beliefs about the receiver, and about the relationship between them. Gifts can reinforce important relationships, take them to the next level, or even destroy them."

Sometimes gifts “say” what cannot be put into words.


Let’s consider the example of two people who are dating, and the SYMBOLISM associated with traditional gifts like flowers, chocolates, or jewelry.


Talk About Talk #116 - Gift Giving - image shows a smiling woman receiving a bouquet of flowers

What do those gifts communicate?


Perhaps one of these things:
  • Gratitude 🙏
  • Interest and affection ❤️
  • An apology 🥺
  • Compatibility 👍

Gifts can express any number of things, and it’s that SYMBOLISM that leads to anxiety and the pressure to find the “right” gift.

So how can we take the stress out of gift giving?
There’s a model for that!

Substance vs. Sentiment

Imagine you’re shopping for a birthday gift. You think you’ve found the perfect gift! It “says” exactly what you need it to. But then doubt and worry set in, and you think:

What if they don’t like it?


Talk About Talk #116 - Gift Giving - image shows a man handing a gift to a woman

Image by Syda Productions via Canva


This is when it’s worthwhile to take a step back and consider two things:


  • This is the amount spent on the gift.
  • This could range from no cost to astronomically expensive. 
  • This is the thoughtfulness or effort associated with the gift.
  • Gift cards are examples of low sentiment gifts.
  • Personalized or homemade items are examples of high sentiment gifts.
When evaluated across these two dimensions, gifts will fall into one of four quadrants of the Gift Giving Matrix:
Talk About Talk #116 - Gift Giving - images shows a 2x2 matrix labeled substance (cost) and sentiment (personal, thoughtful, effort)
Can you guess which gifts are most appreciated?


If you guessed low substance-high sentiment, you’re correct! You don’t need to spend a lot to give gifts that are thoughtful and personal, like the drawing a child gives their parent, or a home cooked meal one neighbour makes another. It really is the thought that counts!

There’s just one exception…


GIFT REGISTRIES 🎁 – People who create gift registries almost always prefer to receive something from their list. So don’t stress out about thinking of the perfect sentimental gift.

Make your life easy and buy from the registry!


That’s it for this week. I don’t know about you, but I am fascinated by the Gift Giving Matrix, and I hope it helps take the stress out of your GIFT GIVING this holiday season.

If you know anyone who would be interested in learning about how we communicate through gift giving, please forward this email to them. THANK YOU! And if you have any questions, suggestions or feedback, please email me anytime!  

Talk soon,

Learn about 1-on-1 COACHING with Andrea,
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