Here’s What You’re Getting Wrong About The Gift Giving Love Language

Start by understanding the art of serial gift-giving

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

What are “love languages”?

The concept of Love Languages was introduced to us by Gary Chapman in the early 90s. Through his book, The Five Love Languages, we understand that each individual values different things that make them feel loved/cared for. Your primary love language is the way you best understand and prefer to receive love from others. Here are the love languages:

  1. Quality Time
  2. Physical Touch
  3. Words of Affirmation
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Gifts

Although my primary receiving love language is acts of service, I show my love most by giving gifts to others.

I understand the gift-giving love language as a form of serving the ones that I love. While there’s a lot more talk about people who love receiving gifts — ah, living in the material world ♫ — there isn’t enough thought given to those who love giving them.

A huge part of giving gifts involves paying attention to the needs and wants of the receiver. There is absolutely no point in recycling shitty gifts just because your mother taught you to never show up empty-handed. This is probably why it’s a huge piss-off when someone brings over something that makes no fucking sense to who I am or what I need.

As an act of rebellion, I make an effort to bring the right gift or I avoid the ordeal entirely. If you don’t know someone enough, honestly, just ask them what they need instead of wasting your resources. When I do give a gift, there’s an entire process behind it; planning, saving, purchasing, and presentation aside, I want the receiver to feel seen and heard through my gifts.

What do good gifts say about the giver?

The goodness of a gift is subjective to the receiver. And while gifts not only serve a purpose for the receiver, they also say volumes about the giver.

Here are a few characteristics of the giver of good gifts:

1. Thoughtfulness

They think about you and your needs during their day.

Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash

The other thing with giving timely gifts is that I want you to see you’re on my mind. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m always swamped with projects by choice. If I’ve bought you something, it won’t be on a whim. I don’t have the time to mindlessly shop.

To bring you a gift, I would have taken the time to think about your problem, come up with a list of potential contending solutions, and then I would have chosen a winner.

This process takes time and I want you to see that I care about you more than other things going on in my life. I would hope you see that and appreciate it because sharing my attention is a challenge but I love/care about you enough to overcome it.

2. Listening Skills

They listen to you.

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When you listen to someone effectively, you’re actively trying to learn about them without waiting for your turn to respond. This key skill can help you get gift ideas even before it’s time to get one. People love talking about themselves, so give them the opportunity and you’ll see how many ideas they give you without your asking.

Example: You’re out with me at a cafe, and you mention how much you love this coffee roast somewhere in the middle of a story you’re telling me. I’ll write it down in my notes app to buy it for you if you’re having a terrible week. Unexpected gifts can usually cheer people up, especially if they’re thoughtful.

Sometimes this isn’t appreciated but the people who don’t get it don't have to be your people. If you have a knack for attention to detail like myself, take pride in it and don’t change for anyone else. It’s a big world.

3. Emotional Intelligence

They pay attention to you, your feelings & circumstance.

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When I care about someone, I think about them often. I think about what they like, dislike, how they spend their day, and what can make it better. I study them. I look out for them in more ways than one.

A lot of times there’s more digging to be done if you want to get to the root cause, or in this context, the gift that will solve a problem. Gifts that solve problems without trying too hard can serve as a source of unspoken trust between the giver and the receiver.

Example: We’re hanging out and you tell me about your crystal collection, how much it’s helped your energy, how you take it everywhere but are concerned about damaging them when you carry them around. The first thing I’m going to do when you’re on your way home is to check Amazon for a portable house for your crystals. I want you to be able to carry them without fear of damaging or losing them. It’ll be on your doorstep within a week.

4. Timeliness

They made sure you have this when you wanted/needed it the most.

Photo by Phil Desforges on Unsplash

Like the example above, surprising folks with random things is a different high for me. If I’ve caught you avoiding a purchase that can make your life less miserable (a new card case, wire catchers, a watering can to replace the milk jug you’re currently using to water your plants), you best believe I’m getting it for you as soon as I can.

It’ll show up on your doorstep or I’ll be holding it in my arms the next time I see you and I’ll eagerly watch your face as you unravel the wrappings. Part of me wants your happiness, and part of me wants you to see I was the knight in shining armor who relieved your current pains. (yes, we all see the deeper issue here but that’s for another post)

5. Implicit Sacrifice/Compromise

They adapted their circumstance to afford this.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Not everyone is rich enough to walk into a store, buy what their heart desires, and leave with a handful of goodies. Some of us have to plan our finances far more in advance than others to buy meaningful gifts when an occasion shows up.

As someone who still has a student loan to pay off, I start making Christmas lists in the summer.

Yep! Summer.

In July, I’ll set budgets, create a savings plan (weekly, biweekly, monthly, etc.) so that by the time we’re in November, not only do I have a list of gifts still relevant and ready to be bought but I also have the funds to splurge.

This kind of planning helps me create a sense of financial balance during the holidays, and it doesn’t feel like my bank account is on its last legs.

Are there times when I’m unable to make purchases for others immediately?

Of course!

But that being said, as a 20-something with student loans, rent, and other expenses, it’s not always easy for me to save. When I was younger, and all the important things were taken care of, I would skip spending money on lunch 2–3 times a week to incrementally save up for gifts for the year.

However, this is the part that nobody sees. They don’t see the lists, the math, the scheduling on top of constantly searching our conversations to find out what I can do to make their lives easier. And that is what it takes to be a gift-giver.

So how can you treat a serial gift-giver right?

Start by accepting the gift, no matter how big or small.

In my years of gift-giving, I’ve come across a lot of different types of gift receivers. Some will accept the gift readily, and others will argue about the value and how it’s tOo mUcH and I CaNt aCcEpT tHiS.

If you belong to the tOo mUcH group, don’t do that thing with a serial gift-giver. Now that you’re aware of all that goes into the art of gifting, you can see how having it returned only ever hurts us because all that work was for nothing. It didn’t benefit you, and it wasn’t appreciated the way we hoped it would be.

So start by accepting the gift. Then try to understand how we decided it was the right gift. I love it when someone asks me how I knew that was the right gift because there’s always a story behind my process. And believe it or not, I too love talking about myself. HA.

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If you enjoyed this article, feel free to leave me some claps and also check out other writings on my page.

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Natasha Anwar

Natasha Anwar

I write personal observations about psychedelics for mental health, emotional efficiency, and design thinking.