Have you ever received gifts that you found insulting? Do you wonder what the givers were thinking when they chose them for you? Have you ever been to an office gift exchange when someone (maybe even you) received an inappropriate gift that made you and your coworkers cringe?
Unless you've agreed to exchange gag gifts, you should think about how the other person will see the item. Gift-giving should be a positive experience for both the giver and the receiver, regardless of the setting. What you consider funny might be an insult to the receiver.
Consider the Setting
Always think of proper etiquette and manners when you select a gift for someone. In addition to determining what you buy based on the person's taste, you also need to consider the audience. If your coworker opens a sexually suggestive gift in the office both of you might have some explaining to do. You also need to use caution when giving something to your child's teacher.
Host or Hostess Gift
When you visit someone or attend a party, it's always a good idea to bring a hostess gift. Avoid trying to get too creative with something that could be taken the wrong way. If you're not sure what to bring, stay with the traditional bottle of wine, candles, hand towels, decorative soaps, or kitchen gadget.
Insulting Gifts to Avoid
Here are some gifts that can be insulting:
- Put-down gift – If your friend has an issue that she struggles with, such as being overweight, depression, or financial struggles, don't give her anything that even hints at those topics. Never give someone a membership to a weight loss clinic or a scale to "keep track." Find something positive instead. A woman who struggles with her weight might appreciate a statement necklace that draws attention to her beautiful face. Someone who suffers from depression might appreciate a gift card for a massage or even an offer of dinner with you.
- Self-help book – No matter how much your friend needs emotional, psychological, or physical help, avoid giving him a book about it unless he specifically says that's what he wants. Instead, you might want to buy a gift card to a bookstore and let him choose what he thinks he needs.
- Anything that looks cheap – You may not have a big gift budget, but you can still find well-made things that don't cost a fortune. Instead of a cheaply made article of clothing, give the person a subscription to a fashion magazine. Most periodical publishers offer specials throughout the year, and it will be something that reminds the receiver of you for a long time.
- Personal hygiene items – He might have nose hairs that look like a nose ring or body odor that makes everyone cringe when he steps into the elevator. That doesn't mean it's okay to embarrass him in front of people as he enthusiastically rips into his gift at the office party, only to discover nose hair trimmers or an assortment of deodorants. You'd be better off finding out what kind of music or reading material he likes and give him a CD or book.
- Secondhand gift – Unless you are at a white elephant party that involves bringing something you want to get rid of, give the person something that has never been used. It's okay to regift an item, but not one that has been opened … and never in front of the person who originally gave it to you.
- Anything the person obviously can't or won't use – This can be anything from a set of wine glasses to someone who doesn't drink wine to an ashtray to a nonsmoker. If you care enough to give someone a gift, take the time to find out what she likes and doesn't like.
- T-shirts or other apparel with rude or crude sayings – You might think that a pullover with the words "Wide Load Coming Through" is funny, but it's insulting to the person opening it. Also, avoid giving anything with a suggestive phrase. Even if you know the person will get the humor, she'll have to be very careful where she wears it.
Receiving an Insulting Gift
If you're on the receiving end of a gift that you find insulting, try not to make a big deal of it. Perhaps the person didn't consider some of the thoughts and feelings you might have. Instead, thank him or her right after you open it and send a thank you note later. Then try to forget about it.