Why Are Some People So Good at Finding the Right Gift?

Some thoughtful gifters search all year for the perfect presents. PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek/Shutterstock

It's not the gift, but the thought that counts. Well, maybe. It's actually the best of all worlds when you get the most thoughtful gift.

Some people are just stellar gift givers. They have a knack for selecting the most thoughtful presents that are perfect for each recipient.

The key to giving a good gift is being a good listener, says Lauri Frenkel of Alpharetta, Georgia. "It's about really listening to what that person's interests are and their hobbies, passions, even what's on their bucket list for life."

For an airplane-loving boy's bar mitzvah, she tucked a gift certificate for a flying lesson into a book about airplanes. She sent her giddy daughter and a friend on a scavenger hunt all over the house for a pair of Hillary Duff concert tickets. She surprised a friend on a cold winter's day with a snuggly hoodie, complete with a quippy saying to fit her personality.

Giving gifts is selfless and selfish says Frenkel. "The selfish part is the joy I get out of making someone else happy. I would so much rather be the giver than the recipient. To me, it’s so much more fun to give someone that kind of happiness and joy," she says. "I imagine the expression on someone’s face when I give them the perfect gift, and that for me is the best part of it."

woman giving friend a gift
Gift givers love the look of happiness on the recipient's face. Flamingo Images/Shutterstock

The secrets of great gifters

Here's a look at how great gift givers do it. If you're not the best at picking out presents, maybe you can pick up some tips from the pros and start giving amazing gifts, too:

They're always looking

Great gift givers don't just shop right before a birthday or a holiday. They're always looking year-round. "A good gift-giver is someone who is always on the lookout for things that could make their friends and family happy throughout the year," writes celebrity matchmaker Alessandra Conti in Mel magazine. "Maybe it’s at a little shop that they visit while they’re out in the country. Or a little figurine that reminds them of an inside joke that they have with their significant other. The actual gift rarely matters ... It's the fact that the person was thinking of them while they were doing something else."

They pay attention

Maybe something has come up in conversation or they've noticed a friend or family member remark on something while they're out browsing. Awesome gifters notice when people compliment something they're wearing or an item in their home. They take note and surprise them later with a perfect gift of their own.

They take a hint

Givers often think that people want surprises because they think it shows more time and thoughtfulness went into choosing the gifts. But a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that recipients actually appreciate gifts that they want and have asked for. If someone has said they'd really like a certain item, stellar gift givers don't worry about being predictable. They give people what they want and know they won't have to worry about a gift receipt.

They don't forget presentation

canvas-wrapped present
Unique wrappings can make for a pretty gift. panna-yulka/Shutterstock

Part of the fun of getting a gift is unwrapping it, and it's all the more thrilling when it's swathed in lovely packaging. Caring gift givers are all about the details, whether that means special paper and fancy ribbons, or custom wrap. Nancy Soriano, living editor at Rue La La, recommends using pretty fabric or towels to cover something like a bottle of wine. Try adding a decoration that goes with the theme of your present, like a bottle opener with your bottle of wine or a cookie cutter to go with your cookbook.

They're not overly practical

Yes, we all need socks and toasters, but they aren't that exciting to unwrap. "The best gifts are, in fact, useless," writes Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, in The New York Times. The goal is to make someone happy, not just fill up their underwear drawer.

They give an experience

Items can be tucked away and forgotten. So thoughtful gifters often give the gift of an adventure, like concert tickets, a museum membership or a massage. People who receive experiences feel more connected to the giver than those who receive material gifts, according to researchers at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. "These benefits of acquiring an experience over a possession stem from the fact that experiences contribute more to one's sense of self, are more likely to be shared with others, are often more unique, and are harder to compare against alternatives," the researchers write.