Having an Etiquette-ful “No Gifts, Please” Conversation

Gifts for All Occasions

Some people are on the “no gifts, please” side of the fence, while others take great pleasure in finding “just the right gift” for friends and family. How do you go from gift-giving to no-gifts without hurting feelings?

A reader, self-described as someone who has always had the reputation of being a thoughtful gift-giver, wrote to ask for suggestions on how to broach the subject of changing gifting traditions with family and friends without prohibiting others from sharing gifts if they want to. This person is seeking an alternative to tradition and at the same time to be viewed as recognizably respectful.

Making the Request

Act Soon

  • Let others know in-person, by phone, or through a recorded video chat, well before up-coming birthdays and gift-giving holidays, what you have on your mind. It may be the case that you know family members/friends who feel as you do, and the announcement might include other’s names.
  • Share the details and reasons for your new stance of “No gifts, please.”
  • If you receive pushback, you might say, “Thank you for sharing your thoughts. And I assure you, that the decision stands apart from the truth that I care for and value you and our relationship.”

Appreciate the Past

  • Ahead of time jot down a special gift each person in attendance has given you and share, in a public way, your appreciation of the memories.
  • Remind everyone of the common awareness that gifts are expressions of thoughtfulness and people who give gifts have spent time and effort to choose something special.
  • Share and encourage sharing of memories of humorous gift-giving stories.

Assume a Leadership Role

  • Share alternatives in your “no gifts” future: Marking the birthdays, anniversaries, holidays with special ways to celebrate such as walking in the park or each other’s neighborhoods together, cooking breakfast, everyone paying their own way to a movie or concert, getting together for dinner, creating a “memory box” tradition of communicating special memories with each person.
  • Ask others to communicate ideas on the times they have felt most loved and respected on their birthdays and holidays.
  • Going forward, recognize how others’ experiments that involve different expressions of love and gratitude for family members play out.

Looking Forward to No Gifts

It’s still “the thought that counts.” Many say that giving a card with a heart-felt message is a best gift ever. New practices of recognition and celebration may take time to catch on, especially for those who were against no gifts being given. And it may be that others are so relieved not having to spend time looking for gifts, the conundrum pressure goes off, and as one person reports, “Lifts the burden of the expectation to go shopping.”

New traditions tend to catch on after the second cycle-through. Be patient with everyone participating and grateful for each recognition that what you’ve started is a good thing!

“The true measure of a person is found by watching what they do for others.”

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