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    What Messages Do Our Gifts Convey? Gift Giving From a Psychotherapist’s Perspective

    In the Christmas season, we may read a lot about choosing perfect gifts. Yet we rarely consider the message that our gifts convey. This is the topic of a guest post written specially for you by Joanna Piekarska, a psychotherapist.

    How do we choose gifts?

    Some stores recommend gifts for specific groups of people: mothers, grandfathers, boyfriends… Others advise us to choose a gift that will match the taste and interests of its recipient. It’s a good idea to do so, provided that we know this person fairly well. Gift giving may also motivate us to learn more about our loved ones, ask about their dreams, passions, hobbies and interests… Yet today, I would like to show you the process of choosing gifts from a slightly different perspective. Ask yourselves a question:

    What message do I want to convey with my gift?

    What do we want to tell the recipients by giving our present? What feelings do these people evoke? What do we wish them? What do we want to support them with? What do we consider important in our relationship? Presents are one of the means to convey our feelings. In the Western culture, this can be easiest shown on the example of an engagement ring. This gift says: ‘I want to spend my life with you.’ This is also true for other gifts. Each present is a message that says: ‘I was thinking of you,’ ‘I wanted to give you something,’ ‘I care about you.’ What  other messages can gifts convey? It depends on what they are.

    What do our gifts say?

    When we buy a set of strings for a guitar player, we say: ‘I support your passion. Your music is cool!’ When we buy flight tickets to a dream destination of our loved one, we say: ‘You dreams are important to me, and I want you to make them come true’. We also say: ‘I know you well. I listen to what you say. I know what you like.’ When we buy a voucher to a beauty parlour for a tired young mother and offer to take care of her child when she’s absent, we say: ‘I want to give you an opportunity to have some rest, to relax on your own.’ And when we give someone a cake we baked, this may mean: ‘I wanted to indulge you, and I put my heart and soul into it.’

    Do we always understand the message right?

    Naturally, each present may be misunderstood. A diary received as a gift may be interpreted as: ‘They rub my nose in the fact that I’m badly organised.’ Luxurious cosmetics may lead the recipient into thinking: ‘Do they think I don’t take enough care of myself?’ That’s possible, but it makes no sense. This way the recipients deprive themselves of the pleasure of enjoying gifts. So it may happen that someone misinterprets their gift as criticism or a reproach. But it’s the risk we always have to take into consideration when we decide to give something more personal than a customary pair of socks or a Santa Claus candle.

    What should we do to give spot-on presents?

    Ask yourselves a question: ‘What message do I want to convey with my gift?’ It may help when you run out of ideas. This question may stimulate creativity and help you draw valuable conclusions related to your relationships. After all, that’s what gift giving is about: cultivating our relationships. Right?



    joanna-piekarska-autorka-bloga-notatki-terapeutyczneMy name is Joanna Piekarska. I’m a journalist, a mediator and a psychotherapist in training. On my blog notatkiterapeutyczne.pl I share my knowledge of psychotherapy in a simple and accessible way. I explain what psychotherapy is about, how it works and what it can help with. I answer questions, dispel misconceptions and encourage readers to reflect upon their feelings. I do it all because I strongly believe it is one of the best gifts we can give ourselves.


    This time instead of giving you my advice I have a question for you:

    Some creative gifts send a clear and direct message. With thank-you Merci chocolates you express your gratitude; on a heart-shaped word cloud, you write your best wishes for the newlyweds or a different person, and with a list of reasons why you like or love somebody you reinforce these traits or behaviours and let someone know they are important to you.

    My question is: what is the message conveyed by the following creative gifts:

    Treasure hunt?

    Photo calendar?

    Birthday magazine?

    Video clip for birthday?

    Song written and sung for someone?

    DIY board game?

    I am waiting for your suggestions in the comments below!


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