There Actually Is a Science to Gift-Giving

Next time you find yourself needing to give someone the perfect gift consider two things: alleviating guilt, and “pain of paying”.

I know most of us don’t walk around the mall intent on buying gifts for loved ones and thinking, “Will this alleviate their guilt? Does this have a high enough pain of paying?” However, these two concepts aren’t as bleak and impersonal as you might think. The alleviation of guilt essentially means that you should look to give a gift dealing with economic exchange. Such as giving someone new socks if they can't afford socks. That alone is a nice gesture, but an even more meaningful gift also has what Dr. Dan Ariely refers to as a “pain of paying”, where the gift is something that person wants to buy, but would feel guilty buying for themselves. For instance, a high end massage or designer handbag, coupled with a meaningful message, is a recipe for gift-giving success.

Buying the right gift

Thinking of something the person needs but would feel guilty about buying for themselves is tricky so try thinking outside their box. Depending on how much you love the person you're buying for, go all out and take some sort of risk with your gift. Not all risky gifts have to be something extreme, like skydiving lessons, but think of something that will take them out of their comfort zone, or that they will benefit from in the long-term. Maybe something that has less hurtling towards the earth with someone strapped on their back, like a guitar lesson or a set of new pots and pans. Even if they end up not liking it, they’ll have a deeper understanding of your feelings for them knowing that you took that risk in the first place.

P.S. I could always use a fun new pair of socks.