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The art of thoughtful gifting

The secret to showing them you really know them this Christmas starts before you even hit the shops. Here’s how…


iving is supposed to fill us with more joy than receiving, so why is it that the process of actually finding the right gift feels more stressful than starting a new job and getting a tooth removed – at the same time? ‘It’s because you’re trying to prove how much you care about someone,’ says psychotherapist and mind coach Jess Henley. ‘So through your present, you want to show that you know them, you understand them, you’ve really thought about them.’ No pressure, then.


‘People still get caught up in thinking that the value of the gift is what shows you care,’ warns Jess. ‘However – and, yes, it’s a cliché – the thought is worth so much more. When your recipient realises and appreciates the thinking behind your present, the pleasure they’ll feel is, quite literally, priceless.’ And the good news is, this doesn’t have to involve hours of hair-tearing analysis. These clever strategies can help you get in a gift-buying groove.

Hit them in the heart

Say what? We mean with a sentimental gift. Research from Carnegie Mellon University in the US found we worry these types of presents are too boring when, actually, people love them. ‘Everyone wants to be acknowledged for who they are as a person,’ explains Jess. ‘Gifting something sentimental and personal shows you’re seeing them as an individual.’ So why not get a photo book of your adventures together printed for your best friend? Or give your parents a beautiful framed drawing their grandkids did of them. A word of advice: don’t let those fears of your gift being dull or not ‘enough’ get the better of you, tempting you to bulk it out with ‘filler’ buys grabbed at random. Researchers have found this devalues the impact of your main present. Noted.

Try ‘one for you, one for me’

This is quite possibly our favourite piece of research yet: studies show recipients are more enthused about what you give them if they know you’ve also bought it for yourself. According to one of the professors involved, Evan Polman, it makes your offering look better (clearly you rate it) and helps them feel closer to you. ‘You’re creating a shared experience and acknowledging things you have in common,’ says Jess. ‘If you’ve read a book and loved it, you might buy it for a friend you think will connect with it, too. You’re giving a bit of yourself – something that’s resonated with you and you feel will do the same for them.’ #winwin.

Think past the initial rush

Part of the fun is waiting to see the expression of – *crosses fingers* – delight when they tear off the wrapping. However, experts say we shouldn’t concentrate on that initial, short-lived ‘wow’ factor, but rather on gifts that provide value over time – indulgent bathing goodies they can use if they adore long soaks, or bed socks to cosy up in every night. Heighten the thoughtfulness by adding a personal note, such as: ‘You always say your feet get cold, so I hope these will help you sleep better.’

When your recipient realises and appreciates the thinking behind your present, the pleasure they’ll feel is priceless

Gift them an experience

Whether it’s a super-relaxing spa day, a helicopter ride (find other amazing adventures at or an event that you arrange yourself (say, booking them a No7 Match Made experience and makeover in store, followed by going for morning tea together), creating lasting memories and the opportunity to do something a bit different is one of the best gifts you can give. Tip: don’t forget about the presentation. Studies have been conducted on the importance of wrapping (yes, really). And the resounding opinion? It’s crucial to ensure your present looks like a present – so make it feel special. Even if it’s just an email confirmation of a salon manicure, print it out, put it in a box and wrap it beautifully.

Buy them what they want

This is all about listening and observing. If your other half asks for a certain aftershave, don’t rule it out just because it won’t be a surprise. Studies have found that receiving something we’ve requested is much more thoughtful and personal than an ‘unsolicited’ gift. Jess agrees: ‘It might not give you the same rush, but it’ll really excite them. I wanted a designer diary last year, which my fiancé thought was boring. I still got a buzz from receiving it, because it was exactly what I fancied.’

Getting giving right

 Our readers share their finest pressie-exchanging experiences


It’s the little things…

‘I’d announced to my colleagues that I was pregnant (and had already been suffering with morning sickness for weeks). Whoever had me for the office Secret Santa gave me a thoughtful set of ginger travel supplements, boiled sweets and a ginger-scented shower gel, all from Boots. I nearly cried! It helped me enjoy a less nauseous Christmas.’

Lisa Jarmin, 39, Crewe


The mum who notices everything

‘My mum and I were shopping for my sisters. As we made a beeline for the luxe make-up counters in Boots, and chose some pink blusher and a pillar box red nail varnish, I couldn’t help checking out Chanel lipsticks for myself. Mum clearly paid attention, because on Christmas Day, I had a Chanel box waiting for me.’

Chloe Gatt, 29, Surrey


The special sentimental gift

‘After a day out with me, my mum, sisters and niece visiting the house my mum grew up in, we had a lovely group picture taken. It’s rare for us to be together, so I took my phone to Boots, got five sets of prints and five gold frames, and gave them to everyone for Christmas. The photo has taken pride of place in my mum’s house.’

Joanne Fee, 39, East Grinstead


Got a budding Super Hero in the house? They’ll love the Spider-Man Go Spidey! Eau De Toilette Gift Set, £8 (50ml, edt): with a super-cool fragrance and temporary tattoos, they’ll be all set to join the crime-fighting fun. Specially designed for children, the eau de toilette is hypoallergenic, alcohol-free and gentle enough to be worn every day.


Click here to discover more fun perfumes for kids.

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