As a writer, my subject is human nature, and I love nothing more than to identify a new character distinction, such as…
- Abstainers and moderators (I’m mostly an abstainer)
- Finishers and openers (I’m a finisher)
- Over-buyers and under-buyers (I’m an under-buyer)
- Upholders, Questions, Obligers, and Rebels (Of the “Four Tendencies,” I’m an Upholder)
In fact, in my book Better Than Before, about the 21 strategies we can use to change our habits, one strategy is the Strategy of Distinctions. To change our habits, we must know ourselves, and distinctions help us to know ourselves.
To be sure, some people say, “If you define me, you confine me.” A label should never limit our sense of possibility, but I do think it’s easier to understand ourselves—and other people—when we have vocabulary to describe differences.
I knew from everyday life that people engage with their senses differently. Being a non-foodie helped me see this particular distinction; it was so obvious to me that many people got more sheer pleasure from food than I did. Once I realized that my neglected sense was taste, I looked for ways to increase my enjoyment, engagement, memories, and knowledge around taste, and it has brought me so much happiness. (Ask me about the magic of ketchup!)
Also, as I was studying the five senses, I struggled to understand a pattern I noticed around…what? Was it discernment, high standards, agreeableness, love of novelty or familiarity, pickiness?
I puzzled over these elements for months. It’s hard to find something when you don’t know what you’re looking for.
Finally, I identified the distinction—in an unexpected context. Gift-giving!
Yes, I finally realized that I was picking up on characteristics that come into play around receiving gifts. (Which, in the end, wasn’t really tied to the five senses at all.)
It took a lot more work to figure this out, and I worked with a brilliant team to hone the ideas, and ta-da, now this framework is ready.
Take the Gift-Giving Quiz to find the perfect gift.
This quiz identifies what kinds of gifts a person wants to receive.
It’s so satisfying to present the perfect gift to someone we love, and it’s so frustrating to have no idea of what to give, or to give an unsuccessful gift. In the past, I’ve asked myself questions such as:
- If I splurge, will this recipient even care?
- If this person requested something specific, is it okay to make a reasonable substitute?
- Is is lazy to give them the same item year after year, even if they ask for it?
- Should I try to be imaginative, or will they just end up re-gifting some item they don’t want?
When you take this quiz, you don’t answer about yourself; you answer with a particular recipient in mind. This way, you identify the kinds of gifts that person would find most appealing. (We often give the kinds of gifts we’d like to receive ourselves, which is well-meaning but often not very successful.)
For the quiz, you answer eight short questions, then receive a “gift-appreciation profile” for your recipient, along with gift-giving guidance and some specific ideas.
Why Gifts Succeed
When we know someone’s type, we can choose the types of gifts that are most likely to please them.
For instance, my father is an “Easy-to-Please.” That means that among other things, he enjoys feeling a personal connection to a gift. That explains why he loved getting a “Writers’ Guild on Strike 2023!” t-shirt from my sister Elizabeth, and why he consistently wears all the TV show swag she’s given him over the years.
By contrast, my mother is an “Enthusiast.” She’s very interested in what’s new; she likes to experiment; she’s curious about the best or most quintessential example of something. One of the best gifts I ever found for her? An imported brand of face cream had become a cult sensation in New York City—I managed to buy the last tube.
If you need further inspiration, once you know a gift-recipient’s type, you can use the the five senses to help generate great ideas for gifts. To get started, check out the Five-Senses Gift Ideas.
Why Gifts Fail
We’ve all had the disappointing experience of being excited to give someone a gift, but then that person didn’t seem to appreciate it.
The Gift-Giving Quiz can help explain why a gift does or doesn’t succeed.
Maybe you’ve given your husband a ukulele, a poker set, and a set of juggling balls, thinking that he’d enjoy a new hobby. If you take the quiz and discover that he’s a Tried-and-True, you’ll know why he’s much happier to receive yet another box of that maple-sugar candy that you’ve given him for the past five years.
What gifts have you found that work particularly well for the Easy-to-Please, Tried-and-True, Enthusiast, or Connoisseur? We all need great gift ideas! I can keep adding them to the gift guide.