Hello Talkers!

It’s that time of year… ?  Regardless of whether you celebrate Christmas, we communicate a lot with our gifts, don’t we? 

Here’s a Q: How confident are you with your gift-giving? In this email, you’ll get help with both: GIFT-GIVING and CONFIDENCE  !

You can skim this email or click on the links to earn more.  Let’s do this!


Gifts are highly symbolic. Gifts communicate things about:

  • the GIVER
  • the RECEIVER

That’s a lot of communication! And that’s why in this week’s ?podcast we Talk About Gift-Giving!

?Link to Podcast

? Link to printable Shownotes

?Link to Subscribe 


When we understand gift-giving dynamics, we can be better communicators.  Researchers in the areas of anthropology, economics, sociology, psychology, and consumer behavior have examined the gift-giving phenomenon in detail. Some of their findings are surprising, some not-so-much:


Gift-giving is Prevalent

  • There are birthday gifts, wedding gifts, client gifts, thank you gifts, Christmas gifts, hostess gifts, teacher gifts,…
  • Gifts account for an estimated 10% of retail sales. There are even gift stores!

Gift-giving is highly Symbolic

  • Gifts communicate things about the giver, the receiver and their relationship
  • Gifts can express all sorts of things, including: interest, power, gratitude, an apology, compatibility (that’s a big one), and gifts can even signal affluence.
  • Gift-giving rituals and traditions that are formed by individuals’ culture and personal family upbringing.

Gift-giving is a 3-Step Process that never ends

  • Gift-giving is a “self-perpetuating system of reciprocity” (Russell Belk)

Gift-giving can cause Anxiety

  • A strong evaluative component exists at every stage of the gift giving process.
  • Encoding and decoding errors of the symbolism in gift-giving are common.
  • The need to reciprocate can cause feelings of obligation and guilt. A few examples of people who may be exempt include work subordinates, wait staff, students, teachers, monks, and transients. Unless you’re one of these, you’re likely obliged to reciprocate.
  • There is always an expectation that the receiver will be gracious…  
?Yikes! Let’s be rational about this!


Is there a way to think about gift-giving in a more rational way?  YES!

Consider two ways of evaluating gifts: 

  1. SENTIMENT – how personal is the gift? Is it thoughtful?  Did it take a lot of effort to procure or create the gift?
  2. SUBSTANCE – the $$ cost or value of the gift.

Based on these two factors, we can create a 2×2 GIft-Giving Matrix, with Sentiment on the x-axis and Substance on the y-axis:

You have probably received gifts in each of these quadrants. Most people think the top right corner is most desirable, right?  Well, NO.  According to research:

  • Receivers typically do not appreciate the extremes –
    • ⛔️too expensive or too cheap
    • ⛔️too much thought & effort or no thought & effort
    • ✅People generally prefer gifts somewhere in the middle
  • The most appreciated gifts are low substance and high sentiment –
    • ✅ Gifts in the the bottom right quadrant are the most appreciated – you know – the homemade gifts from the ❤️heart?


It REALLY is “the thought that counts!”


? Gift-Giving Relief

Based on the gift-giving research, here are some things we can worry LESS about:

We should worry less about how much money we spend.

  • See “Rational Gift-Giving” section above.
  • Low substance, high sentiment gifts are appreciated – it really is the thought that counts!

We should worry less about buying “typical” gifts.

  • Research indicates that women really do ❤️jewelry and men ❤️electronics. (Check and check.  You’re welcome.)

We should worry less about buying from gift registries and wish lists.

  • Have you ever tried to think of a gift that your friends might like at least as much as the stuff on their registry or their wish list? (Yes, so have I!) Apparently, that was a waste of time.
  • According to the research, people who create gift registries almost always prefer something from their registry, versus something else.  So don’t over-think it.  Just buy something from the registry.  Got it?  Now we know.



I hope you’re feeling more confident about your gift-giving now.  Please let me know what you think of the gift-giving podcast!

If you haven’t had a chance yet, I hope you will read 5 Things You Can do to Communicate with CONFIDENCE:

  1.  Prepare & Practice
  2. Adopt a mantra
  3. Borrow some confidence
  4. Get a pep talk
  5. Act confident


That’s it for this week!

Thank you for your feedback and ideas.  And THANK YOU for forwarding this email and the Talk About Talk website and podcast to your friends.  I appreciate it more than you know!


Have a fantastic week.

TALK soon,

Dr. Andrea Wojnicki
Chief Talker & Communication Coach


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