Manners Monday: How to Gracefully Receive a Gift You Don't Like

We've all received gifts at one time or another that we were less than thrilled about. Most of us know the polite thing to do after opening a gift in front of the giver is to smile and say thank you, regardless of how we truly feel inside about said present. Sometimes gift giving can get tricky though. As a practical person, I have a hard time keeping a gift that I know I'll never use, even if I know the gift giver put thought, time and effort into selecting it. I think of the money that was spent and it always seems like such a waste to me instead of exchanging it for something that I'd actually use and enjoy. That probably sounds terrible, but I know I'm not alone. As someone who loathes clutter, to me it ends up being one more thing to store in a closet which is the opposite of how I like to keep my home.

On the flip side, when I buy gifts for my husband or family members, I always want to check in and make sure they like it and let them know if it's not of their taste or they don't feel they'll use it, that I won't be offended if they do want to exchange it or even get a refund and use the money towards something they will in fact appreciate. Over the years, I've never really had too many gift 'returns', just the odd clothing item here or there for my husband that didn't fit properly.

Recently, I created some personalized photo gifts and had so much fun selecting which photos I'd use and how I'd lay the pictures out. When I was done and ordered the items, I had a smile on my face thinking about how the recipient would be happy to receive them, after all, they were homemade gifts for very close family who appreciates sentimental photos and anything with a creative touch. Well, you can imagine my surprise then, when I found out they didn't appreciate one of them nearly as much as I thought they would. This person (a male) is practical just like I am, and didn't want to see an item with the best intentions being shoved to the back of a closet (and actually revealed that's where it would end up!). It turns out after some recent home redecorating (which I wasn't privy to beforehand), one of the two gifts no longer matched their decor.

This got me thinking about gifts and how we choose to give and receive them. Personalized gifts are always thoughtful but can sometimes prove to be a challenge. Once something is monogrammed or custom printed, it's set in stone. As a gift giver, we must be certain it's something that will be well received. Likewise, other well meaning gifts such as custom jewelry and handmade items, fit the same bill. For that reason, it's often best to give a gift that is less personalized and specific (but not quite as generic as a gift card-unless it's requested) and can be returned or exchanged if necessary. I felt torn between the practicality side and my emotions. In the end, I had to honor the gift recipients wishes and in our particular case we were actually able to return one of the items (the other was kept) and now I can provide something that will be better suited to them. It's these types of sticky situations that I do my best to decode for you and give you pointers on for your own scenarios, however that certainly doesn't mean I'm exempt from them as you can see! ;)

How to Gracefully Accept a Gift You Dislike

1. Smile-  No matter how much you want to cringe, smile instead. Now is not the time to make a disgusted, confused face or look overly surprised. In any situation, a genuine smile puts others at ease. While you may not love the gift, chances are you do love (or at least like) the person who gave it to you. Think about what their friendship means to you and it won't be hard to do so. If you need to, tell yourself it's secretly a gag gift and they're testing to see how you respond. 

2. Thank the Giver-  Whether the gift giver knocked it out of the park or their choice was a total miss, a thank you is always appropriate when someone gives us a gift, regardless of value or our personal preference for it. Someone took the time, effort and may have spent money to present something they believed you'd appreciate. Whether you are opening up a gift in front of the giver or not, always be sure to follow to follow up with a hand written note as it is proper gift etiquette. You can read this previous post on how to write the perfect thank you note.

3. Compliment the Sentiment- Even when we are confused about a gift giver's choices, know that their intentions were good. Be sure to notice something positive that can be said about the actual item(s) as it's the thought that counts. For the ugliest pair of socks: "You are so thoughtful, you remembered how my feet always get so cold in the winter" or for a horrific scent of perfume: "Thank you so much for thinking of me and look at how pretty this perfume bottle is (if it in fact is).

4. Hint at What You'd Like in the Future- If you received a gift from someone who is notorious for giving strange gifts or from someone whom you'll likely receive more gifts from in the future (ie: your finance, mother-in-law or a new friend), provide some guidance in a gentle way by sharing what you prefer. Even though you might feel they should know you already based on what you wear, what's in your home and are aware of your interests, some people still need you to spell it out. It is important not to do it in an obvious way that makes them feel that you don't appreciate the gift in front of you. After finding something positive and thanking them, state something such as "Have you had a chance to smell the new Tory Burch perfume yet? It's heavenly!" Hopefully they'll ask for a name! If you don't typically wear socks such as our example above, say: "I rarely wear socks, mine just sit in the drawer but these will make my workout outfit extra funky". That way you are still being kind but subtly letting them know you don't prefer to receive socks and why.

5. What to Do With the Gift- After receiving the gift itself, you should never feel obligated to keep it. Personally, I don't like to contribute to the landfill unnecessarily and I know my discarded items will be someone else's treasure so I will typically donate what I absolutely do not like and can't think of anyone that would either. Many times I'll keep an item for a short time (depending on who it is from such as my Grandma) such as a pretty, lidded candle that just doesn't have a scent I like, and then will eventually give it away. If you read my post on re-gifting etiquette, you know that I do re-gift from time to time, although it's very rare and it must be well-suited to the new recipient, not a reason to just save some a few dollars as it can come across as being cheap. If you choose to go that route, be absolutely sure the item will be given to someone who does not know the original giver-this is critical! Try attaching a piece of painter's tape on the bottom and write the same of the giver in case it's being stored in a closet so you don't forget. I once received a small gift back from the person I gave it to a few years later and the same person gave my daughter an obvious re-gift that was not in new condition for Christmas which was both uncomfortable and annoying to me, I would have preferred no gift at all and it got tossed. I just can't help but think of this person differently now (a gift needs to be in its original packaging and should be in new condition). 


Since my blog is designed for women and the majority of gifts we buy are for other women (our mother, sister, daughter, aunt, best friend, co-worker, etc.) I thought I'd share a few of the classic items I like to gift others that are always well received and are also presents I'd enjoy myself or already own and love. When giving a gift, it's always wise to ask for a gift receipt to enclose with the gift in case it does need to be returned or exchanged and it will avoid that awkward moment of something asking you for the receipt and explaining why it didn't work out for them.

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I'd love to hear your stories....have you ever received a gift that you couldn't possibly imagine why it was gifted to you? Have you also found yourself giving a gift that later you came to find out was not appreciated? How did you respond? I'd love to know in the comments below!

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