Reality Check: What a Gift Can Do

Gift-giving occasions are so common that they can seem like an obligatory nuisance or, more cynically, a corporate effort to boost consumerism. However, a thoughtful gift can have a genuine impact. Giving a gift can show that you care.
Yet even when we’re choosing gifts for people close to us, it can be hard to come up with the “right” gift.
Recent columns about basic needs sparked an idea—let’s consider gift choices from the perspective of basic needs. That is, is there a gift that could help your loved one satisfy their basic needs?
According to Choice Theory, those five basic needs are: security & survival, love & belonging, power, freedom and fun. Let’s consider the basic needs of a friend we’ll call Kelly. What might we choose?
For example, does Kelly have a high need for fun? How does she satisfy it? Does she find fun in being alone, sitting quietly in the sun with a book, doing a puzzle, playing an instrument, doing a creative hobby?
Or does fun for Kelly mean being with others? Going out, gathering for conversation, playing a board game?
Each of those fun-satisfying activities presents an opportunity for gifts. You might choose things: books, tickets, hobby materials, coffees. Or you might choose to give the gift of companionship for shared activities.
Another need is the need for freedom. Freedom satisfaction for some people means time away. The gift of a vacation could be a nice way to say, “Feel free, my friend!” However, if like me, you consider that a tad extravagant, then a gas card could address the freedom need with a significantly smaller bite. Sometimes the offer of baby-sitting for an evening out may be the best freedom gift you could give.
If Kelly is unhappy because of a lack of power, you might think there’s nothing you can do about that. Think again. A little recognition can go a long way to address an unmet power need. An “award” from you may have as much or more effect as anything bestowed by an impersonal institution. If you want to give a bigger gift, enlist others to do the same.
The need for love & belonging is very strong for many people. If your perception is that Kelly feels lonely and unloved, then consider gifts of comfort. The most effective gift here may be the gift of time, conversation, genuine interest. Nothing says I care about you as effectively as actually caring and being physically present as needed.
Finally, the need for security & survival may be unmet in more people than we’d suspect. Even if Kelly appears to have plenty of money, this need may be unsatisfied. For some, pre-paid meal deliveries could be reassuring. Services such as cleaning or snow-clearing can lighten the load if Kelly feels vulnerable. I’d read about a young couple who received boxes and boxes of canned goods as a wedding present. It seemed a joke at the time, but when times got difficult, those cans came in handy, providing both security and memories.
Perhaps the most effective aspect of these gifts is the fact that you are taking time to think about your recipient. Think about their life, what they mean to you, what they may need, what brings joy, comfort or peace. While, “It’s the thought that counts,” there are many ways of expressing thoughts. A well-chosen gift can be one of them.
What gifts have you given that you consider effective?

This entry was posted in Choosing Behaviour and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.