While I know plenty about giving gifts, I am admittedly still working on how to properly receive gifts (with the right warmth and enthusiasm that the gift giver wants to see). But I understand that gift giving is a two-way street, so I tapped my grandmother, a psychologist for the past 30-years and gift-receiver extraordinaire, to write a FeatureMe blog post on how to respond to the act of love that is receiving gifts. Here’s what she had to say:
My granddaughter recently reminded me of how she and my other grandchildren love giving me gifts because I'm such a gracious and enthusiastic gift receiver. I've been thinking about her feedback and how glad I am that my grandchildren feel that way. Hopefully, the rest of my family and friends feel similarly.
I have a friend I give an annual birthday gift to. Her response to my gifts, which seem more dutiful and polite than anything else, makes shopping for her a chore.
She is a very dear person but not a gracious gift receiver, even though she wants her gifts appreciated. I end up feeling that the gifts I get for her are not good enough (whether they are or not). In fact, I recently suggested since neither of us really needed anything that we end our tradition of birthday gift giving.
Because the truth is gift giving is an exchange between two people. For it to be a good experience for both, the receiver needs to fully participate in the process. Every gift giver needs a receptive gift receiver.
Especially when the gift is given in person. In this case, our gift giver is attentive, waiting with excitement or anxiety to see and hear a response to their effort. A wimpy or tight 'thank you' isn't enough for a positive experience. And laughing about or misunderstanding a gift (unless that's part of the gift) can be crushing to the gift giver, at best pretty disappointing.
So what makes a good receiver?
You need the ability to respond with gracious appreciation. Take time and focus your attention on both the gift and the giver. Notice the details of the gift. Comment on how you might use or wear the gift. Comment on the meaning of the gift. Smile, hug, ENJOY yourself in the receiving role. Enthusiasm is always appreciated.
For some, it's vulnerable to be a receiver, even embarrassing. I had to challenge myself to get over that, by remembering that it's as important to receive as to give.
In fact, it can be selfish not to give the gift giver expressive appreciation, even when it's hard for you. Practice being expressive and gracious. It's the love communicated in the gift, not the gift itself, that matters and over time, what will be important.
Allow yourself to be authentically open and vulnerable as you receive a gift, appreciating the gift exchange out loud (no one can read your mind).
Examples of what to say:
"I love that you think of me this way!"
"Oh my gosh, this is perfect!"
"You really pay attention to the kinds of things I love.”
“Thank you so much. I really love this"
"I'm very touched by your thoughtfulness.”
"This is a work of art.”
“I know just what I'm going to do with it!"
Examples of what not to say:
"Oh, you shouldn't have"
"Thanks" before immediately putting the gift aside.
"What is it?" (Sometimes that might be necessary though but risky. Proceed with caution.)
"I'm not sure what I'll do with this.”
“Where'd you get it?"
Sometimes we have to be honest about an unwanted or negative gift. It's a delicate situation
and how to handle it is specific to the nature of the relationship. Some people are just not good gift givers (shameless plug, maybe those people should sign up for FeatureMe’s email list).
Be gracious and appreciative anyway. Their effort really does count. Because what is gift giving but an act of love?