The Psychology Behind Giving Gifts


On the surface, giving and receiving gifts may seem straightforward, but for many, gift-giving can lead to stress and anxiety. The type of gift you give can say a lot about the relationship you have with the recipient. And forgetting to give a gift to someone who values gifts in a romantic relationship can lead to trouble. Giving gifts might be the number one way someone shows love – their top love language.

At InstaFashion, we know a thing or two about gift-giving. With hundreds of thousands of families using InstaFashion, we pick up on trends, insights and help solve many different types of family gifting dilemmas every day.

So, what’s behind the act of gift-giving that can fill us with so much joy or sadly…dread?

Why do we give gifts?

For some, having to give a gift is simply an obligation to fulfill. For others, it is a way to show love and connect on a deeper level with loved ones.

Let’s take a look at some of the motivations behind gifting.

1. To Strengthen Relationships

Giving a thoughtful gift is a way to show someone how well you know them. The act of giving to someone in a time of need can speak volumes about how much you care for them. Paired with a heartfelt apology, the right gift may even help make up for poor behavior. I for one strive to give thoughtful gifts, especially to those I feel distant from or whom I know value gifts.

On the flip side, not everyone values gifts. If there is someone in your family who mentions every year they would rather not receive gifts honor their request (even if it might go against your own traditions around giving). While you may feel good giving to them, it could do just the opposite for your relationship.

 

2. To Make Others Happy

As a mother of a three-year-old, I give my daughter gifts to make her happy. Who doesn’t like to see the look on a child’s face when they open up a gift they’ve had their eyes on for a while. That look is priceless.

3. To Feel Good About Ourselves

The act of giving makes us feel good. Two studies found giving can lead to feelings of life satisfaction and lasting improvements to overall happiness.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, someone with a strong competitive nature may also use gift-giving to “one-up” a sibling, co-worker, or even a spouse. This can lead to the same increased levels of happiness by feeling they gave the best gift.

4. How to choose a thoughtful gift

What exactly is a thoughtful gift?

Gifting your son-in-law who struggles to change a light bulb a power saw for his birthday may come off as a bit insulting. And cash can seem downright thoughtless–unless it’s what the recipient asked for.

To be thoughtful means showing consideration for the needs of other people. A thoughtful gift doesn’t necessarily have to be a complete surprise, nor does it need to take a specific length of time or energy to select. Those are misconceptions many have around gift-giving. More people prefer to receive a gift they have requested or hinted at wanting.

A gift registry service like Insta Fashion can help you give more thoughtfully while still retaining the surprise factor. It is an excellent way to learn more about what your family is interested in too, no matter how close you think you might be. 

5. Refusing to buy from a registry.

Research suggests one of the reasons for buying off-list is that they are close enough to know what gift they need or want and don’t need to use a registry. Another reason is they might feel a sentimental gift or an experience would be better than something more generic. But studies continue to show most people prefer to receive gifts they’ve asked for more often than not.

6. Stress and Anxiety from Gift-Giving

Family dynamics

Favoritism Families with multiple children have the added stress of making sure gifts are given fairly. A child who received fewer gifts than a sibling may experience negative feelings of favoritism, even if it wasn’t intended. This same issue can also occur between other family members.

Divorce: Playing by the rules in the case of a divorce, consider setting the same budget for birthdays and other important holidays so gift-giving doesn’t end up being a competition between parents.

Worrying about what others think

Another psychological factor that comes into play with gift-giving is worrying about the opinion of others as well as the recipient. What will the gift say about your relationship? Is it too expensive? Too cheap? Not thoughtful enough? What will others think of my choice? The anxiety of how they might be judged based on their gift choice can cause some to dread any type of occasion where gifts are given.

While gift-giving may seem complex, it’s important to remember we cannot control how others respond to our gifts. Asking someone what gift they would enjoy the most by using an online gift registry or by simply having an old-fashioned conversation can decrease your stress significantly.