Best of 2018: The Gift-Card: Considerate or Careless?

So I'm on my way into the city listening to local radio when a listener calls in to express the fact that she refuses to give gift-cards as holiday presents. She expressed that going the extra mile by trying to find the perfect gift, displays thoughtfulness, respect, and appreciation. "Gift cards are too easy and thoughtless" she said.

What do you think? I mean, is she right? Should we all ditch the gift-card giving to ultimately be "more considerate" people?

Here's the psychological truth. A gift-giver gives the gift he/she would like to obtain in the manner he/she would like to obtain it. Put simply: you give what you'd like to get! It's the same in other facets of life too.  It might be an unconscious thing and it might not happen 100% of the time, but it's a theory that makes a lot of sense. Ever take your partner out on the town and really appreciate when they do that very same thing for you? Ever run over to a friend's place when they are in crisis and whole-heartedly appreciate it when they do the same for you? I'm not saying that we do nice things to get nice things in return, I'm simply saying that the particular and specific way you care for people is often related to how you'd like to be cared for! How interesting is this?!

So let's take it back to the gift-card sitch.  The radio caller's opinion that gift-cards should not be given is neither right nor wrong; it is a testament to her personality and her interpersonal values. Her opinion that gift cards suck is about the fact that she would not want to receive a gift-card as a gift. Perhaps, in her heart, it symbolizes that the gift-giver does not care about her or is thoughtless, or lazy. It is for this reason why she refuses to give them to others- it is because she wants to receive “more consideration” instead of a “thoughtless” gift-card. She will only give what she'd like to get and this person wants you to “think about her enough” to buy her an item she might like. Her statements are all about her and not about the rightness or wrongness of gift-card giving.

So do we or do we not give gift cards? It's simple. Know your recipient. If they like gift cards, get them gift cards. If they don't, then don't. And if you don't know, don't beat yourself up and just take a guess.  In the case of this radio caller, DO NOT GET HER A GIFT CARD.  It’s unfortunate though because in her opinion that giving gift-cards is “bad,” she is using her own preferences to decide what to get other people. It’s ironic because this is exactly what she was trying to fight against which is self-centeredness.  Her argument is in favor of thinking about the other person to really seize what they want and display care and affection by getting them an actual item or experience.  Well, what happens if they really just wanted a friggin’ gift card? Don’t deny someone of something they want because of your opinion about it.  That is what I believe is being considerate in your gift-giving.

Happy holidays everyone! 

Anna-Maria Tosco, or our Sassy Psychologist, has two masters degrees in the field of psychology and has studied and worked coast to coast. She has worked in both psychiatric and community settings in some of Montreal's most respected healthcare organizations and institutions, and has also given a variety of talks and workshops on neuroplasticity, meditation, and uncovering barriers to love.