Giving gifts unconditionally is not necessarily simple. Gift giving can sometimes feel like a chore that makes us resentful. Other times we give gifts in order to get something in return, even if it is simply the gratitude from the recipient. Seen in this light, we are really giving to get what Daniel Goleman terms a"narcissistic hit", something that isn't exactly motivated by altruism.
How can we learn to give gifts without strings attached when we are accustomed to feeling either a sense of duty, or we want gratitude from others in return? Unconditional gift-giving starts by sharing a piece of yourself - your love or esteem and care for the other person shown by the time taken to select a gift in a considerate manner, and combining this with not wanting anything at all in return.
1Find a gift that means something about the other person to you. Be proud of what you choose. Don't just buy something because it is in the bargain bin or because it was the most expensive item in the store. Put effort, care and consideration into the purchase or creation of the gift. Making the gift yourself is definitely an option too, and is even more a"piece of you", so feel free to do so.
2Let it be a surprise. A gift prompted by persistent requests for it is not as exciting or fulfilling as a gift that is a total surprise. This does not mean that you cannot give things sorely needed by the recipient but how you will know this is by observing their life and knowing them, rather than heeding direct requests for items.
3Think beyond stuff. Stuff is all very nice and cute when wrapped up but stuff ends up drowning us. Sometimes, giving stuff is giving a burden to another person and the"condition"involved in such a gift is that the recipient puts up with shelving your stuff in their already over-crowded life. If you are gifting the"person-who-has-everything", avoid stuff. Consider alternatives that won't oblige the condition of adding to clutter on the recipient, gifts such as:
A promise to visit monthly to take an elderly recipient to art galleries or botanical gardens;
A service - nappy (diaper) washing service, house-cleaning service, car-wash etc.
Plants for the garden that will produce food, scent, colour or shade
A voucher for a massage, spa treatment, fitness class
4Think carefully about what the other person would not buy for themselves. If you give items that a person is already very adept at getting for themselves, muzzling in on this territory can be a means of invading it and substituting their sense of style with yours. Don't even bother; if you know the person well, you will know already what they do well enough without your help. Look instead for the things they'd never consider purchasing - like the red shoes with really high heels you overheard them pondering about but muttered that they couldn't afford, a trip to a spa resort that they would never think to slow down for normally, or a new food that is something they've never tried before etc.
5Let the recipient know gently and without great"hoo-ha"that your gift can be returned to a store, re-gifted, or donated if it doesn't make them feel comfortable or happy. You do not want to create a noose around their necks. If you ever had an experience growing up when someone in your family gave your family something hideous and it was ferreted out each time this person visited, you will know that the sense of obligation can turn gift-receiving into a burden rather than a delight.
6Avoid giving"useful"items that the whole household needs and will make use of. The toaster for mother on Mother's Day, the car-cleaning gear for dad... These things do service for everyone and are not gifts in the usual sense. An exception would be if you give something like the car-cleaning gear, include with it"coupons"the recipient can cash in to you to wash and wax the car for them. Otherwise, if you must produce such items as gifts, gift them to the house, the car, or the family as a whole. These sorts of items are just too impersonal to be true gifts and this makes them conditional--you are giving something provided that everyone else gets to use it.
7Expect nothing in return. You are giving because you want to. If you don't want to, then you need to reassess the point of what it is that you are really doing. Do not expect gratitude, smiles or something in return. Although most respectful and well-mannered people will demonstrate gratitude, there are times where this will not be forthcoming for one reason or other but that does not necessarily mean that the person doesn't respect your gift-giving or not appreciate it. Sometimes people are embarrassed, too surprised, shy, ashamed, or self-conscious to react in a gracious manner. If you have given with good heart, their reaction or lack of one should not bother you. Look deeper and you will see truly how the gift has been received.
8Be considerate about presentation. Wrapping and presenting the gift will show your sense of style and also that you have taken care to present your gift nicely, a demonstration of respect for the recipient. It doesn't have to be complex, and recyclability is de rigueur.