Sunday, February 28, 2010

Choosing the Right Gift

The conclusion is inescapable. When you are choosing a gift for someone you are or wish to be involved with, choose it as though your relationship is on the line. Because it is. Especially if you are a woman and are offering a gift to a man.

The paper, "The Gift of Similarity: How Good and Bad Gifts Influence Relationships" demonstrates this point. Link here. Via Simoleon Sense.

What makes a gift good or bad? According to the researchers, gifts that demonstrate similarity of taste and interest are the best; gifts that suggest that the two of you are fundamentally in disharmony are often read as bad omens.

Surprisingly, when it comes to reacting to gifts, men are the more sensitive gender. If a woman buys a man a gift that he considers ugly or trivial or irrelevant or unamusing, he is likely to become pessimistic about the relationship's future prospects.

Women, on the contrary, are more willing to forgive and forget, either because they are a more conciliatory lot or because they are more prone to protect and defend the investment they have made in the relationship. If they have had sufficient dealings with men their expectations have likely been tempered in the crucible of experience.

I will admit to being somewhat puzzled by the notion of similarity here. So I will define it more precisely, according to my understanding of what makes for a good or bad gift.

A good gift fits the person who is receiving it. If you offer as a gift something you would like to receive yourself, or something that would be thoroughly appropriate for some other person in your life, then the recipient will first think to him or herself: Whom does he (or she) think I am?
Or else, who is he or she trying to make me into.

A woman with a button-down boyfriend should not go out and buy him a bunch of hip-hop gear, on the grounds that she is trying to expand his experiential horizons. If a man loves sports and his wife buys him tickets to the playoff game or an autographed basketball, he will be thrilled, not because he thinks that he and she have the same taste or interests, but because he will know that she respects his taste and interest.

If a husband who has no real interest in classical music invites his wife to the opera as an anniversary gift, she will likely react positively to his willingness to make a sacrifice to please her. I do not think that her happiness is based on the notion that the two of them have similar tastes.

If you do not know who you are involved with, then the other person is well within his or her rights to take that as a warning signal.

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