Have you ever gotten or given a pair of socks as a present? While they may be quite useful in some kinds of weather, socks are generally regarded as rather dull, unexciting items. Often mentioned as part of trivializing or ironic expressions, they have become an ultimate symbol of unimaginative gifts. However, with the risk of baffling your expectations, this article is not about socks, but about gifts that do not fit the recipient.

How much time do you spend for gift selection? If you have a typically urban life, chances are that last-minute gift shopping is not completely unfamiliar to you. The fast tempo of our life sometimes compels us to do things in a hurry, without giving much thought to their true value. There is a wide range of so-called "general-purpose" gifts, from the neutral and harmless vases and key rings to the riskier puppies, kittens and canaries.

The good part is that you’ve taken the load of gift selection off your mind. The bad part is, it’s so obvious to the recipient that you have given less than the minimum amount of thought to choosing the gift. They’ll end up with a lot of stuff they would never use, or worse, as in the case of pets, with responsibilities they could happily live without.

Is there an easy solution? Disappointing as it may sound, no, there is no easy way to solve this. If those people mean something to you, you should be able to find the time to look for a nice present for them; nice meaning either useful or pleasant, or both. Think of anything they might need for their home, or something related to their hobbies or vacation plans. If you share some memories, you can also choose something that will remind them of the good old times. It'll make them feel good to see that you’ve spent some time choosing the right present, and it’ll save you the embarrassment of witnessing their feigned enthusiasm as they unwrap that pair of socks.

Getting to Know the Gift Recipient

If you've received gifts you've had no use for, it can indicate two things: either the one who gave the gifts doesn't care so much the recipient, or the giver doesn’t know the recipient well enough to choose a suitable present. While the latter situation is pardonable, you wouldn’t want to be accused of the former, would you? The ambiguity of the gesture should be enough to persuade you to think well before choosing a gift for someone you don’t know yet.

Easier said than done, you’ll probably say. No one would contradict you there. If it was very easy to match the gift to the recipient, everyone would always give and get the right presents and we would all be happy. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of time and attention to identify what someone would like to receive.

How can you do it? Obviously, the best way to get answers is by asking questions. However, you can’t go up to someone and start asking them what their favorite gift is. Most times, they probably won’t even be able to give you an answer -- either because they don’t have a clear idea of what they need, or because they might think it would come close to demanding a certain present, which is rude.

But questions can be asked indirectly too. You can ask the future gift recipient about their hobbies, interests and inclinations, and take mental notes of his or her answers. Evidently, these questions should be asked at times when the other person is not likely to suspect why you want to know those things. Start a long time in advance and be as casual about it as you can. You’ll gradually get an idea of what you should choose as a present, and then you can all party happily ever after.

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