How to React to a Gift You Do Not Like

Three Parts:Accepting the GiftDealing with the GiftAvoiding Repeat Bad Gifts

Your great aunt knitted you the world's ugliest sweater. Your friend got you a CD by a band you detest. Your kids are waiting expectantly for you to tell them you love your new pink and green polka dotted tie. Good old neighbor Derek's got you the 10th pair of itchy green socks. Almost everyone will someday receive a bad gift, but that doesn't mean you have to make the gift giver feel bad too.

Part 1
Accepting the Gift

  1. Image titled React to a Gift You Do Not Like Step 1
    Say "thank you". Regardless of how little you might like the gift (save for the extreme chance that it's unmistakably offensive), any present is worth a "thank you." Don't overplay it or it may seem like you're trying to cover something up. Look them in the eye and be as direct as you would with any other show of gratitude.[1]
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    React to the thought of the gift. If you struggle to bring a smile to your face to show gratitude for something you'll never use, or something you never wanted, try to appreciate the thought behind it. Unless the gift is offensive or purposefully jarring (in which case you should keep your gratitude), it's always possible to offer a few words of thanks concerning the thought they put into it.
    • "Thanks so much! How did you think of this?"
    • "Thank you for these colorful socks; you know I like to keep my feet warm."
    • "Thanks for the CD! I'm always looking to expand my collection."
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    Compliment the gift. This really doesn't need to be any more than a simple "how nice!" But if you'd like to play it up, engage them about the gift and how they thought of it. Feign interest through questions. This itself is good distraction from discussing whether or not you'll use it, how often, etc. Ask them where they bought it, ask them if they've got one themselves, or ask how best to use it (if applicable). In general, when reacting to a gift you don't like, put the burden of the conversation on the person who is gifting, and not yourself.[2]
    • "What an interesting choice! Do you have this CD too? What's your favorite track?"
    • "I don't think I've ever seen socks like these; where did you get them? Do you have a pair yourself?"
    • "I definitely don't have a sweater like this--how long did it take you to knit? How long have you been knitting?"
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    Decide whether to be honest. If it becomes impossible the ignore the "don't you love it" or "won't you use it" moment in the gift-giving process, you'll either need to give it to them straight or offer a white lie. If you choose to speak plainly, try to demure and be as conciliatory as possible, provided this gift was an honest mistake and not purposeful jab at your interests or beliefs. And if you lie, lie small.
    • For instance, if you've received a piece of clothing you can't stand, tell them "I'll wear it when I see you next." If you can take it, follow through with it; otherwise when it comes up, you'll have "forgotten."
    • If you can, coax them into offering a suggestion on how/when to make full use of your gift. Then give a quick "I'll be sure to do that" and move on.
    • In the case of a gift that is clearly mean-spirited, it's acceptable to throw any poise and respect out the window. Don't be afraid to tell them they can keep it.
    • If you lie, know you may have to lie some more. Be prepared to either own up or keep it going. But remember to always keep the lies small; don't tell them you lost that sweater in your own house fire when your house still stands.

Part 2
Dealing with the Gift

  1. Image titled React to a Gift You Do Not Like Step 5
    Send a thank you card. While sound advice for any gift you receive, the thank you note has an added importance for those gifts you couldn't stand. It will put to bed some (if not all) of the worry the gift-giver might've had about your attitude towards the gift (or the giver having gifted it). Send it a week or so after you received the gift. As with receiving it, mention the thought behind the gift more than the gift itself. Be non-specific as to your involvement with the gift after the fact, possibly nothing more than "I'm enjoying it."[3]
    • "Thanks so much for coming over and spending some time. I can't believe you put all that effort into knitting something for me--thanks again."
    • "Just wanted to send my thanks for coming over the other night. So glad you went out of your way to get me a gift, happy to have another CD for my collection."
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    Re-gift it. If you're truly aiming to deal with the gift outright, you can always pass it along. A caution, however: don't get caught doing this. Even if you were straightforward about your feelings from the outset, it's thought of as tacky and insincere to pass along a gift already gifted. At the very least, make sure the person to whom you're passing it along to will appreciate it greatly. Your only defense in a situation like this is to insist--honestly--that you've given it to someone who could really enjoy it. Either that or donate it to charity.[4]
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    Let time heal. Usually, the anxiety and awkwardness associated with the moment of gift-giving is unique to that moment. In time most come to appreciate the scope of the gift and realize (as you should) that it was truly the thought that counted. So if you weren't forthright from the beginning, don't be afraid to let your feelings be known after the fact if pressed on the issue.
    • Tell them you gave the gift a try, but didn't like it. Pretend as though this was as much a surprise to you as it is to them hearing it.
    • Do your best to make light of the situation, but never seem as though you regret receiving a gift. A thoughtful but unwanted gift is always better than none at all.
    • Ask them if they'd like it back. If it was something they themselves have pined after or use themselves, offer to let them have it. Most people will say no out of courtesy, and this you'll have to accept. Never try to push it on them or you'll come across as rude.

Part 3
Avoiding Repeat Bad Gifts

  1. Image titled React to a Gift You Do Not Like Step 8
    Have a wish list. Given the appropriate occasion, such as your birthday or one of the winter holidays, consider having a wish list. It doesn't necessarily need to be a list itself, but know what you're aiming to get. For those of your family or friends who can't help but gift terribly, lay it on thick to them what it is you really want from them. If the desire is really to just avoid the bad gift, make your suggestion something cheap and easily attainable.
    • "I'm still working through the last CD you gave me. I'm really looking forward to [artist name]'s next release though, should be out before Christmas."
    • "I love those socks you gave me, I wear them around the house all the time. There's these shoes though that I'm really pining after; I think they sell them at [department store name]."
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    Make an example of good gifts. For the chronic bad gift-giver in your life, go out of your to find out just what they would like. Don't be afraid to even ask "what would you want to get?" If they try to demure or offer an "anything'll do," press them on it. Everyone always has something in mind, so find out what it is. The hope here is that they'll mirror your effort when it comes to gifting next.
  3. Image titled React to a Gift You Do Not Like Step 10
    Speak plainly. If they just won't quit, it might be time to say something before you have a room dedicated to gifts you never wanted. Hopefully you know your gift-giver enough to explain to them without offending them. If not, be prepared for them to become upset even if it's not really justified. Sometime after they've given the gift, pull them aside and tell them honestly "I'm not really sure this gift is for me."
    • "You know I love music, but this is just really not my style. I'm more into [style of music]."
    • "I can't thank you enough for knitting this for me, but I'm not sure it fits with anything in my wardrobe."
    • "I think I need to be honest: I've never found a way to pair any socks you've given me with anything I own. I can't thank you enough for the gift, but I've no use for any more socks like this."


  • If the gift-giver is someone very close to you or someone you see often, it will probably be best to always be straightforward with them about your attitude towards the gift.
  • If you choose to re-gift, gift it to someone in another circle of friends or area of your life. Gift it to anyone unlikely to make contact with the original gift-giver.

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Categories: Gift Giving