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November 29-December 5, 2006

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Giving in Style

By Joseph Rosenfeld

UNLIKE Santa, you can't rely on who's been naughty or nice when it comes to your holiday gift giving. For that reason, everybody should know "the rules" for gifting before the season gets started. If you follow these simple guidelines for giving, you'll have a fun, guilt-free holiday to share with good friends and loved ones.

Personal Gift Giving

The key to selecting gifts for loved ones and close friends is to make them personal.

  • Even if you are on a limited budget, gifts to your "better half" should illustrate that how you feel is still without limits.
  • If your darling has dropped hints about what he or she desires all year long, you are defenseless if your gift disappoints.
  • Gifts to your sweetie should celebrate his or her strong points, not accentuate the weak ones. A massage and spa package is much nicer than a subscription to Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating program.
  • Don't make an apathetic, last-ditch effort with a static gift card. People always appreciate the effort that goes into selecting a gift. As the old adage goes, "It's the thought that counts," even if the gift is eventually exchanged.
  • Professional Protocols

    When it comes to giving gifts to clients and colleagues, don't go overboard.

  • Respect the recipient's company regulations on receiving gifts. Larger companies and government agencies tend to restrict when it is appropriate to accept gifts. They also can place a limit on the value of gifts received. If you don't know whether such policies are in place, it is appropriate to query your client or his/her personnel department for more information.
  • Give a gift that draws your client closer to you. Keep to a modest budget and keep in mind your client's interests. Spend less cash on the gift and spend more time thinking of the right gift. Your client will be warmed by your thoughtfulness, not warned by your lavishness.
  • When it comes to selecting the right gift, don't cross the line with gifts that are either too personal or that could be offensive. Guys, make tasteful selections for the ladies in your office, not tacky ones. If someone is a vegetarian, don't send him an Omaha Steak every month for the next year.
  • Even if your business is footing the bill for your client gifts, be careful not to turn what should be a gesture of good will into a company promotion.
  • Remember, gifts are supposed to express your personal gratitude. Show your thoughtfulness by wrapping your gifts and by enclosing a hand written card. Anything less is incomplete.

    What Happens If ...

    ... Someone gives you a gift and you hadn't planned to give a gift to that person? The only thing you must do is express your thanks for having been thought of. Avoid an awkward situation by not emphasizing that you don't have a gift for that person.

    ... You got a gift that you'd rather give to someone else? "Regifting" requires full disclosure. Gifts are not meant to be passed around like the proverbial fruit cake. If you are a nonsmoker, but received a box of cigars, and know someone who is a cigar aficionado, that would be an appropriate time to pass the gift forward. Just be honest about the provenance of such a gift.

    And finally, do not forget to thank whoever gives you a gift. Think twice before you tender a terse thank you, whether it is by text message or otherwise. Gift giving is about exchanging good energy between people. A handwritten note or email that you took the time to compose and sign your name to is fulfilling for the gift giver and for the gift receiver.

    Joseph Rosenfeld, AICI, CIP is a men's image mentor based in downtown San Jose. Contact him at: [email protected]

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