How to Handle Receiving a Gift You Don’t Like

Getting a present is great – unless it’s the last thing you would ever want! Here are 3 easy ways to properly handle receiving a gift you don’t like.

Richie Frieman
4-minute read
Episode #170

In my last two episodes, I discussed proper gift giving in a new or unofficial relationship, which raised a lot of questions. One reader asked: “What happens if you don’t like the gift from your unofficial boy/girlfriend?” Wow, that IS a good question. After all, in a new relationship, your guard is still up and you’re not always as honest or as open with your emotions as you should (or will) be. And I will say, this question is not just for new relationships. Bad gift giving is like death and taxes – you can’t avoid it!

How to Properly Handle Receiving a Gift You Don’t Like

From a tie for someone who doesn’t even wear dress pants (let alone a dress shirt), to a monogrammed snow shovel (seriously!), we’ve all received gifts that we hated. But despite not enjoying the gift, your reaction should not consist of gaping as if you would rather have received a punch in the face.

So with that, here are my top 3 Quick and Dirty Tips on how to properly handle – and react – to receiving a gift that you didn’t want:

Tip #1 – Smile, Nod, and Say Thanks

I love buying my family and friends presents for their birthdays. But I love their reactions even more. Nonetheless, I’ve gotten the raised eyebrow from time to time on a gift that didn’t quite hit the mark. And from those uncomfortable situations, I’ve learned a lot. Firstly, my wife does not find a subscription to ESPN Magazine nearly as cool as I do. Go figure.

Despite my own miscalculations, which I’ve overcome in the past few years, I found that it’s even worse to be on the other side of the gifting pond. Last year, I opened a gift from my aunt that “appeared” to be a bag of fresh coffee, only to find that it was really a half used bag of coffee (thus no longer making it “fresh”). I don’t know what made her think I would enjoy her already used bag of coffee, or that it would make for a proper gift, but it was something I had to take in stride.

Still, as unmannerly as it is to give someone used food as a gift, I made sure to show my appreciation. Was I lying? Yes! Modern Manners Guy lies to elderly relatives who give improper gifts. But I will say at that at the time, it is what was called for. I gave her a big hug, a kiss on the cheek, and told her I’ll be thinking of her when I made my next cup of coffee. Although I didn’t say it would be from her used bag.

In the end, a smile and a thank you, should be your first reaction. Once you get in the car, you can laugh to yourself.

Tip #2 – I’m in…Like?

I know the gift in your lap isn’t the Rolex you were hoping for. And I’m pretty sure you won’t jump to wear your new wool sweater adorned with a scene of deer frolicking through the woods, but not every present will make you want to Tweet about it to the world. There is no rule that says you have to be in love with every gift you receive. But you never know, you could be happy being in “like” with it. What’s the difference? Well, I love the watch my wife got me for our anniversary two years ago, but I found I could like the Drakkar Noir-scented car freshener my mom got me. Apparently she still thinks I’m 12-years-old, and just discovered cologne samples from magazines.

Don’t be so fast to dismiss a gift simply because it’s not something you would have bought. You never know how useful it might be in the future.

Still, although the gift didn’t even scratch the bottom of the barrel of possible gifts I’d have enjoyed, I showed proper thanks and appreciation at the thought – the weird I-can’t-believe-they-make-that thought. However, as the oddly-scented air freshener sat unused in my house, I figured I should at least give it a try. So I did…and it was awful. But, I was still able to use it. Where? In my gym bag!  I put it in the side pocket and it kept the bag smelling fresh (well, as fresh as any gym bag can). At first, I was quick to shrug this off as another “Mom gift” but later found a use that worked for me. Is it perfect? No. But it is something I could easily “like” in the long run. The point is, don’t be so fast to dismiss a gift simply because it’s not something you would have bought. You never know how useful it might be in the future.

Tip #3 – Don’t Expect the World’s Best Gift

Say the phrase, “I got you a gift!” to someone and they’ll light up like a billboard. The word “gift” has an anticipation and excitement about it similar to the words “birthday cake.” And who doesn’t like birthday cake, right?  People always assume they are going to be floored at the sight of a present someone gets them. However, a gift can fall flat and leave you wondering what its giver was thinking – or even if they were at all.

To this, I say, don’t overthink it. If someone took time to consider, buy, and wrap a gift for you, they deserve your gratitude, regardless of what’s inside the wrapping. So, when you’re about to open a gift from your Uncle Larry, don’t expect an original Andy Warhol. The proper thing to do is to realize that a gift is something that first and foremost comes from the heart and not the wallet. Don’t focus on the financial “wow” factor and instead try thinking about how nice it was to be in someone’s thoughts. Then, show your proper gratitude by letting them know you care about them too, with a hug and thank you. Do not, ever, roll your eyes and show disdain for the gift. That’s just rude (I’m talking to you Madonna!).

If someone took time to consider, buy, and wrap a gift for you, they deserve your gratitude, regardless of what’s inside the wrapping.

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