Mar 27, 2010

The shadow side of social gift-giving: miscommunication and failed gifts

Published on Communication Research Trends, Sept, 2006 by J.D. Sunwolf

“I know what I have given you. I do not know what you have received.”--Porchia (1969)

Gifting as Dilemma: Gifts Do Not Speak for Themselves
"From the day you are born until the day you die, you stand in the midst of gift-giving and gift-receiving dilemmas. Every gift you receive requires that you attempt to decode the intended message of the giver, then challenges you with an added interpersonal burden of appropriate gift reciprocation. Unfortunately, gift objects do not speak for themselves. They require decoding.

Today, social gifting behaviors stand at an intriguing intersection--where the paths of communication, culture, social psychology, philosophy, and marketing meet. While people exchange gifts interpersonally, they are increasingly influenced in their object-choices and gratitude-reactions by mass media marketing. People are increasingly reporting stress, disappointment, anxiety, and misunderstandings when they anticipate or participate in social gifting.

As a form of social exchange, gifts both create and re-create relationships. The idealized gift, however, requires the union of the right object with the right person at the right time—a challenging social intersection. Gift exchange may be one of the few remaining crucial social incidents of significance, testing relational ties on the marketplace.

Failed gifts, in fact, can trigger relational trauma. Givers may be reluctant, receivers ungrateful, or occasions poorly-defined. As a result, relational gift-giving and receiving may be accompanied by high levels of anxiety. A gift-receiver's personal "psychosocial-noise" can cloud or distort the symbolic message(s) that were intended by a gift-giver.

Not all gifts are successful: however clear any giver may feel about the meaning intended behind a gift-choice, once the gift is offered, a receiver faces the communication challenge of gift-interpretation."

That's why Group Gifting can significantly reduce the risk and uncertainty in choosing the right gift. Group Gifting also makes it easy, affordable and reduces the responsibility the gifter takes upon himself. This creative and informal way of communication presents another channel for us to communicate our affection and share positive energy with one another.

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