1. Gift-giving is not a materialistic enterprise.
You wouldn't know it by watching television commercials around Christmas, but gift-giving is not actually about spending money, or assigning value to each person in your life based on how much you're willing to spend on them. So many of the things in our lives have become overly expensive and commercialized - holidays, weddings, etc. - that we're taking a stand with this rule. Gift-giving is about offering something to someone else, not about spending money.
2. Gift-giving is a universal social skill.
We've said it before (see point #5): Gift-giving is a part of being a considerate, well-mannered, caring person. It's an essential social skill that can be learned and cultivated like any other.
3. Give gifts for THEM, not for YOU.
We've all given self-centered gifts at one time or another, usually when we were kids. I remember giving my Mom a waffle iron one year for Christmas. (I really liked waffles.) Sometimes it's kind of cute when kids do this. It's not cute when adults do it.
When picking out a gift for someone else, we often try to put ourselves in his shoes: What would I like if I were just starting a new job, about to become a parent, or turning 40? Inevitably sometimes this leads us to a gift selection WE would like but HE would hate. It will happen from time to time. The important thing is the your gift communicates to the recipient that you really put some thought into it. You considered what he might like.
4. The value of the gift is determined by worth to the recipient, not price.
This goes along with rule #1. Modern day advertising creates the impression that for a gift to have a big impact, you have to spend big money. Not so. Gifts can be valuable in practical terms, but they can also be valuable in personal or symbolic terms. A gift mirrors something about the type of person you think your recipient is, and gifts are a way to communicate caring. When someone gives you a gift that's dead on, it makes you feel a little more seen, known and appreciated for who you are. A gift you spent $100 on may be only marginally appreciated if it isn't useful or meaningful. A gift you spent $5 on can have immense value.
5. Once you've given a gift, truly let it go.
Noticing whether or not someone seems to genuinely like what you gave them can give you valuable information about what to give them in the future. But once you give a gift, you resign all claim on what happens to it. If they throw it away, re-gift it, or stick it in a drawer, never to be seen again, you don't get to be mad about it. If you're going to keep track of what you've given, and what is done with it, you've consigned the recipient to a perpetual obligation. I.e.: "Why don't you wear the earrings I gave you?" Giving gifts to make yourself look or feel good violates rule #3.
6. Accept gifts from others graciously.
It is courtesy, plain and simple, that we're advocating here. If someone has given you a gift, thank them cheerfully, and if possible, enthusiastically. If you know the minute that you open the gift that you will be taking it back for store credit the very next day, that's fine. But bear in mind that you must still be polite to the giver, and show appreciation for the effort.
Coming soon: The Rules of Re-Gifting.