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We know, “It’s the thought that counts …” blah, blah, blah—but it can be really difficult to put on a happy face when receiving a gift that seems to indicate that the giver knows nothing about you. A bright red sweater when you exclusively wear black, a silver necklace when you’re more of a gold gal, a Sephora gift card when you don’t wear makeup … we’ve all been there. It can feel like your friend or loved one doesn’t even care—or worse, doesn’t listen to anything you say.

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Bottom line: getting a gift you don’t want can feel a little bad. But more often than not, the giver is unaware of their misstep—or so anxious to please you that their better judgment escapes in the process. So even though it can appear hurtful, try to cut the gift-giver some slack, they’re trying, really.

Ready to forgive Grandma for last year’s Teddy Bear of the Month subscription? If so, you’re also ready to learn the art of graciously receiving a less than ideal gift. Follow along below…


This may seem like a no-brainer, but whatever you do, make sure there’s a smile plastered on your face. In fact, the word should be on a mental loop as you unwrap the gift. Oh look, tickets to a Lakers game when you’ve never followed basketball in your life **SMILE**. Cool, a Nickeback-themed alarm clock **SMILE**. Wow, a set of batteries—how useful **SMILE**.


The word “gift” has far too positive of connotations. In theory, free stuff is always awesome, but in practice … there’s a lot of gray area. A gift could really be anything—from a roll of paper towel to a diamond ring. When you know there’s a present on its way, don’t jump straight to diamonds—expect paper towel and you’ll never be disappointed.


“Thank you!” is obviously a must—but that doesn’t mean you have to lie about your feelings toward the gift. You can deflect by asking the gift-giver questions that will show your appreciation while also subtly changing the topic: “How interesting—what made you think of this?” “Oh, this is just like the one that my (friend/sister/pet) has—where did you find it?” “This is so creative—did you make one for your (friend/sister/pet)?” You get the gist.


If someone asks what you want for your birthday/Christmas/Hanukah etc., HAVE AN ANSWER. It’s all too easy to dodge the question with a placeholder like “Something that reminds you of me,” or “I don’t know, surprise me.” If you have bad-gift anxiety, the first thing you should learn to do is be direct and come prepared—draft a list of wish list items or categories and share, share, share them when prompted. Tell your mom or bestie to spread the word—however you can (barring mass email), get it out there.


If the gift-giver tells you that they don’t mind if you exchange their present, take them up on it. Everyone wants to give a good gift, but if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again—and remember to have a gift receipt ready. They’ll appreciate your honesty, really.