The Frisky Gift Guide: Don’t Forget Your Manners

‘Tis the season to shower the people you love – and, of course, get a little soaked yourself — with pretty wrapped packages. While giving and receiving can be oh so joyful, it can also create a serious amount of stress and anxiety. Puzzled about who on your list actually deserves a present – and who’s better left off? Concerned about whether you should be honest with your Mom about the horrendous handbag she gave you? Unsure as to what kind of gift is appropriate to give your brand-new girlfriend of six weeks? As you prepare to play Santa or Hanukkah Harry this holiday season, consider the advice of Dallas Teague Snider, founder of Make Your Best Impression, a business protocol and etiquette consulting firm, and Diane Gottsman, Director of The Protocol School of Texas. After the jump, find their guidelines for grateful holiday gift-giving – and receiving…

Make your list and check it twice — for people who probably don’t need to be on it

Ultimately, choosing to give someone a gift is a personal decision. However, immediate family members and those in your life with whom you have a close relationship and/or come into contact frequently (your childcare provider, doorman, hair colorist, trainer, etc.) are people for whom you should seriously consider picking up a present. As far as workplace gift-giving is concerned, Gottsman says that it is not necessary to give your boss a gift, especially if that something suggests a serious suck-up. If you feel absolutely compelled to do so, however, consider rallying your co-workers to give your boss a gift as a group, with everyone chipping in. Also be careful when gifting coworkers, Gottsman warns. “If you are not giving every coworker a gift, give the gift ‘away’ from the office so it won’t cause hurt feelings,” she recommends.

Consider your coin purse – and those of others

When shopping for presents – and receiving them – be aware that the current economic situation has been rough on nearly everyone’s wallets. “There may be people you know carrying a silent burden, so be sure to not make someone feel uncomfortable by presenting them with an expensive gift,” Snider warns. Instead, consider bringing something for the entire family or all of your co-workers to share. “This will make everyone feel included and offer an overall sense of appreciation an diffuse any opportunity to make someone feel embarrassed that they could not reciprocate,” Snider explains. Homemade baked goods or even a a pretty plastic bowl filled with Hershey’s Kisses are always well-received, not to mention inexpensive.

Remain gracious – even if you’ve been given a completely crappy gift

Giving a gift is an act of kindness, so receiving one warrants a genuinely thankful response. Regardless of your feelings about that set of hand-knitted socks Aunt Marge gave you, Gottsman maintains that you should respond with a sincere smile and “Thank you for thinking of me”. If you don’t receive a gift in person, a thank you via phone call is not enough – you really must write a note, she says.

If you are not flipping over a gift someone has given you, you don’t have to mention that it’s itchy, ugly or has a funny smell. “Just say thank you and mention how nice it was of the gift giver to think of you,” Gottsman says. And, most importantly, “Don’t try and regift that horrible thing to someone else!” she adds. Instead, Snider advises donating it to a charity. “That’s a great way turn your misfortune into some else’s fortune,” she asserts.

Put some serious thought and effort into your new love interest’s holiday gift

When you are in the early stages of a relationship, choosing the perfect gift can be tricky. “You don’t want to go overboard, but you don’t want to appear cheap,” Gottsman says. Additionally, Snider adds, because the early stage of a relationship is so new, passionate and exciting, presenting your new flame with a non-personal gift is an absolute no-no. To find an appropriately personal present, she recommends keeping his or her tastes in mind so that you demonstrate a genuine sense of understanding and thoughtfulness. “Her favorite perfume, tickets to a favorite sporting event, theater tickets or a winter picnic basket with all her favorite foods, popular tech gadgets, a picture frame or a subscription to a running magazine if he or she just took up running are all safe ideas,” she says. Snider also recommends making dinner for two with candlelight, adding, “The main thing to remember here is to think about your boyfriend or girlfriend and really think about what will make them happy. Not what you would like them to have, but what they would most enjoy.”