Buying presents at Christmas can be a minefield.  But why can it be so difficult?

One frequent complaint is about people who are “difficult to buy for”.  However, that’s a label we’re much more likely to apply to other people than ourselves.  Instead we think of ourselves as being very straightforward to buy for.

That contradiction is actually the key to making present buying easy.  We should simply ask people what they would like and then, when possible, buy it for them.  So why don’t we?

It’s because we get suckered into the idea of the ‘perfect present’.  However, this idea has very little to do with the recipient – after all they have an idea of what they’d really like, and they’re willing to share it with us.

Instead we make the ‘perfect present’ about us.  We turn it into a chance to show how well we know that person.  Not even so well that we would pick something that we know they would want or like.  Instead we aim to find something that they don’t know about but would be delighted when they did.

It’s this ego about choosing presents that gets in the way, and stops us from asking people what they would like.  After all, they are the best guide to their own taste.

But what if someone has tastes that are so obscure or expensive you can’t hope to buy them something?  Then the most popular present to receive is cash.  It’s also the one that’s one of the least popular presents to give.  Why?  Because people think it doesn’t show any thought.  But if it’s what people asked for then what else can really show them that you listened?

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