How Do You Know Who You Should and Should Not Get a Gift For?

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It’s the time of the season, which means most of us will be giving and receiving gifts. Sadly though, what’s meant to be a kind gesture can sometimes be muddled by confusion of social expectations. Etiquette–how we should act in social situations–isn’t always black-and-white, but breaking etiquette is often considered rude, whether or not the act was intentional, or even if was incorrectly perceived to be rude.

Yeah, not so simple, is it? While opinions on the matter differ from person to person, there are some general guidelines you can follow to broach the gift-giving matter as courteously as possible. Here are some questions to ask yourself when you’re not very sure whether you should get someone a gift.

Is the Receiver a Superior?

With the holidays coming up, it’s not uncommon for workplaces to hold Secret Santa gift exchanges or simply give each other presents. But, should you get something for your manager? Etiquette experts agree: usually, you shouldn’t get your boss a gift. At best, it’ll look like you’re sucking up to the head cheese. Instead, write a note of thanks, which seems to be the more appropriate method for thanking your boss. That said, if you work in a close-knit group and you’re all genuinely friends, there’s probably nothing wrong with a small gift of gratitude – but only if you really feel like it.

Does the Situation Call for Giving a Gift?

There are some situations in which it’s highly expected of you to give a gift – think wedding showers and birthdays. But, there are other times when the matter is a little more ambiguous. When in doubt, go with the majority. Is everyone else in your office giving gifts to one another? Are all your friends swapping presents? You might as well do your part at risk of looking like a curmudgeon. If you don’t know what to get the person in question, or for some reason you really just don’t want to get them something, consider donating the money you would’ve spent on a gift to charity. Hardly anyone can oppose that.

If In Doubt, Simply Ask

If you’re really stuck on whether you should get someone a gift, just ask! In the secrecy involved around giving gifts, we sometimes forget that there’s no harm in ruining the surprise a little in order to ensure we’re being socially appropriate. Keep in mind that if the person you’re asking says “no,” but they really mean “yes” and are upset with you when you don’t get them anything, they only have themselves to blame for not being forthright.

After considering all the above options, if you still can’t figure out whether or not you should be getting someone a gift and for some reason you can’t ask, just go for it! You don’t need to break the bank, and really, what do you have to lose by giving a small token of gratitude? Chances are, you’ll be making someone’s day a little brighter at little cost to yourself, whether it’s “appropriate” or not.

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