How to Hint at a Gift

Gift-giving is always a challenge and sometimes people just need a little hint about exactly what you’re looking for. Modern Manners Guy has 3 quick and dirty tips for properly hinting at a particular gift.

Richie Frieman
5-minute read
Episode #234


I have the world's greatest wife. She's smart, fun to be around, and, oh yeah, incredibly out of my league. If we were athletes, she'd be LeBron James and I would be the 12th pick on a junior high basketball team.

So you can understand my desire to find the best gift ever for her birthday or holidays that will show her how much she means to me. You know what I’m talking about. The "Wow!" gift, the "I can't believe you got this for me!"gift. The one that will make her text her friends: "Best. Husband. Ever!"

Sadly, in over a decade of our relationship, I've yet to ever buy her something that she actually, truly liked…aside from her engagement ring. But even that, I asked her to pick the setting, so technically I didn't go it that alone. I still needed a hint..

You’d think that since I’m Modern Manners Guy and often cover the topic of gift-giving in my podcasts and articles, I would be a rock star when it comes to showering my wife with appropriate gifts. Sadly, that’s not the case. I always hit it out of the park with everyone else, but for whatever reason, I tend to bunt the ball right to the pitcher when it comes to my wife.

Why? Why can I get so close but always come up short? (And no, this isn’t intended as a pun at my 5'5" stature).

If only she would drop some hints, or just TELL ME WHAT SHE WANTS!

Then, only then, could I finally score a gift homerun. And contrary to popular belief, most of us don't mind hints from our loved ones. After all, wouldn’t you rather get your spouse something they really want, rather than something they really want to return?

So with that, check out my top 3 Quick and Dirty Tips for properly giving hints for a gift.

Tip #1: The Subtle Approach

Hinting at a gift is similar to a gift registry. Someone clearly points out "This is what I want" and then you can choose from a selection of options. But dropping hints about a gift when it's not a registry situation tends to cause some tension. One reason is that people think dropping hints is rude. Really? I don't know about the rest of the world but if you tell me what you like, it takes a lot of stress off my shoulders.

If you want to let the person know exactly what you want, without really telling them, the subtle approach works best. I understand that this can feel awkward, especially if you’re in a new relationship and still walking on eggshells around the person (aka, you haven’t let them see you with your nighttime acne medicine on). When done subtly, though, it can make a world of difference.

The best way to drop a subtle hint is to make it look like an accident. For example, a friend of mine recently spent the day working from her boyfriend's house. During the day, she saw a fantastic bracelet online that she thought would make the perfect gift for her upcoming birthday. Her boyfriend had repeatedly said that he was stumped about what to get her, so she thought a little help was needed.

She printed out the page from the web site where she saw the bracelet and “accidentally” left it in the printer. She didn’t tell her boyfriend anything and simply assumed that any reasonably intelligent man would see the printout and say, "Hey, maybe I should get this for her?"

She was right.

He was thrilled to find this “clue,” bought the bracelet, and she had the courtesy to fake surprise when he gave it to her. Everybody wins!