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One thing no one tells you about becoming an adult is that gifting is one hell of an emotional rollercoaster. Where we once got away with a hug and some shoddy crafts, we must now spend considerable time (and money) on those around us. And whether you’re a natural-born gifter or not, there's a lot more pressure to nail it.
There are dozens of ways to approach the gift-giving process. You could undertake a deep investigation into the receiver's Pinterest boards, scour our many Christmas gift guides, ask their mates, or even just ask them directly, but if you’re keen to put a sentimental twist on gifting this year, might we suggest keeping the recipient's love language in mind?
For those that are out of the loop, love languages describe how a person expresses and appreciates love. The five types, as first outlined by Gary Chapman back in the ‘90s, include physical affection, words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service and, well, gifts.
Since we’re here to help, we thought we’d pull together a comprehensive guide to gifting according to a person’s love language.
Words of Affirmation
If someone's love language is words of affirmation, they delight in verbal reassurance and proclamations of love. But this doesn't mean that a spoken word poem is the only way to treat them this Christmas. As family and couples therapist Moraya Seeger DeGeare told Refinery29, "People with this love language value verbal encouragement, and like having people tell them very explicitly what they're doing that they appreciate or notice." Even if you're not someone that usually likes to express your feelings verbally, you can always let someone else do the talking.
Look to thoughtful anthologies like Love Letters Of Great Men, made famous by Mr Big in Sex and the City. If you feel like getting crafty, dedicate the afternoon to writing out little messages and filling up a jar with them so that they can read them daily, or whenever they're in need of some consolation. Alternatively, why not get their favourite quotes, or some other kind of sentimental piece framed? Handmade cards always go down a treat, too.
If someone enjoys soaking up as much time as they can with you, chances are their love language is quality time. But beyond just leaving a window of time in your calendar free for them, these people delight in a well-thought-out plan; something that shows you've put effort into actively carving out time together.
For this reason, activities that involve prior planning will tug on their heartstrings. Try getting creative and organising an experience to take part in such as an at-home pottery kit, a puzzle, or a class you can do together such as a paint & sip or cooking workshop. Concert or event tickets to something you know they'd like is always a winner, too.
Or, if you know they'd prefer to just kill the afternoon with you, a DIY movie theatre setup, booked-in staycation, or even just a carefully curated picnic will be sure to impress.
This one's more of a toughie as if someone likes to communicate their love through touch, the gifts may need to get a little out of the box. For these folks, sensory experiences are a great way to bring out their affectionate side while still providing an actual gift — hugs alone stop cutting it after high school.
If an experience is what you're after, try gifting them a tasting course, whether it's wine, gin or food. Intimate dance lessons are also a fun present that'll allow you to get close.
Since gifting the recipient with literal affection may not go down so well, but splashing out on a new toy that they may not have thought to buy for themselves could be another avenue — things like a massage gun, bath bombs, or a sex toy advent calendar for you both to countdown to the holidays with.
Acts of Service
An often misunderstood language, acts of service is not just basic housework, but speaks to going above and beyond for another person. Showing love through acts of service is when you take something off of someone's plate to make their life easier. As DeGeare says, it's "Being mindful of all the things that need to be done, and doing something for that person." That can look like bringing you coffee in the morning or taking it upon themselves to fix something or buy something you've been meaning to get to but don't have the time for.
These people are generally pretty practical and organised, so knick-knacks and novelty gifts might not be the best route. If you have the time for homemade goods, spend time creating a personalised coupon book of chores or activities that you need to uphold. Or, of course, a very handy voucher. Now, the trick to getting vouchers right is to go niche. I know it feels more practical to get a generic grocery voucher that the recipient might really need, but it's hardly the most exciting thing to unwrap. To keep it interesting, why not switch it up for a voucher to their favourite book shop or the place they like to get lunch when working at the office?
And if you're set on gifting something you can wrap and stick under a tree, try to look for elevated versions of necessities, such as luxurious sheets, high-quality speakers, or even something that elevates their hobbies, like a plush reading chair.
Many people would think that these recipients are the easy ones. But don't be fooled into thinking that a person who enjoys gifts will enjoy just any gift. These people tend to prefer the sentimental mementos that really tell them you care. As Degeare notes, "It's less about the money side of receiving gifts, but really knowing the person and giving a gift that says, 'I know you and I see you, and this is a real need for you.'"
For these people, you'll need to think of sentimental souvenirs, things that speak to inside jokes or that generally show them that you know them and their interests. Easier said than done, we know.
An easy place to start is to look at a person's interests, and try to do some research into what's out there. Could some Stranger Things merch be the key to their hearts? Or a signed copy of their favourite album on vinyl? Could you even track down that discontinued perfume they used to love wearing? Your work is certainly cut out for you.
Another way to gift is with things that toe the line between practical and sentimental. Things like record players, personalised accessories and novelty items work well.
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