Tips On Great Gift Giving

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The Physchology of Gift Giving-3 Tips To Help You Select the Right Gift

Researchers have observed that we are more likely to return the favor when someone has given us something first—whether that’s information, a small gift, a free trial, or a positive experience—even if doing so goes against our better judgment. In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, psychologist Robert Cialdini identifies six main principles that inspire people to say yes. Thanks to the principle of reciprocation, people are more likely to go out of their way for someone who has given them something; they’re inspired to realign the scales and avoid feeling indebted.

The key is to initiate with a gift. Rather than thank a client in December for their year of business, consider giving a gift at the outset of a relationship—or a month before you want to propose a new venture—to increase the chance of a favorable response once you make your request. Likewise, periodic and unexpected small gifts to employees (an early closure on a particularly nice day, a coffee gift card, or even just lunch) can increase loyalty.

People are more likely to go out of their way for someone who has given them something.

Be careful to time your gifts well: goods offered right before or right after a big request will come off like a bribe.

Embrace the element of surprise (up to a point)

Anyone who has worked in a large office has likely experienced the glut of holiday gift baskets. Do you remember who sent what, or do you just scarf down the cheese and crackers? Giving earlier in the year will set you apart from the pack and keep you top of mind.

Sending a gift outside of the standard season also reduces the potential for religious blunders. Different clients appreciate (or resent) different greetings, and these preferences can be hard to keep straight, but a three-month snack-box subscription with an accompanying “happy summer!” note is likely safe and it’ll serve as a reminder of you for an entire season.

Innovation isn’t imperative. A 2011 study from Stanford Business found that recipients are the most appreciative of gifts they explicitly requested. Don’t wait around for your client to say they’d like a specific bottle of wine. Instead, listen closely to cues they give in meetings and send something you’re sure they’ll like, or play it safe with standard corporate gifts that can be easily shared among a team.

More is not better

Givers often think that bundling two or more gifts together increases the perceived value of the whole package, but research suggests the exact opposite is true. Calling it “the Presenter’s Paradox,” three researchers found that recipients unconsciously calculate an average price per gift; their test subjects considered an MP3 player paired with a free music download less expensive than the same MP3 player on its own.

In a similar vein, a very expensive gift can backfire on the giver because it can make the recipient feel uncomfortably obligated (and sometimes even get them into trouble at the office, as many companies have rules about what employees can and can’t receive).

To stand out from your competition this year, try giving a little to get a little, particularly during an unexpected season. Be thoughtful—but don’t go overboard—and science says your effort just might pay off. What kinds of gifts have you most appreciated? Tell us on Facebook or Twitter.