Opening a gift can feel incredibly awkward for introverts, who dislike being in the spotlight and often keep their feelings to themselves.
As an introverted kid, I dreaded the thought of an entire room of people staring at me while I opened a present. Everyone’s eyes filled with great anticipation to see how I’d react to the unveiling of yet another shirt or toy — there was always so much pressure. Plus, when you’re young, it seems like there are so many presents for you, and everyone hopes their gift can make this little kid happy.
Even then, as a child, I sensed I wasn’t responding appropriately to getting a gift. TV clips showed other kids jumping up and down and screaming on Christmas morning, but I couldn’t imagine ever getting anything that would make me celebrate like that. As an introvert, I just didn’t like, or want, the attention, and would do as much as possible to stay out of the spotlight.
More than that, I seemed to struggle with any appropriate response to presents. I appreciated them, but I always felt like I wasn’t smiling big enough. Or that my eyes weren’t opening wide enough… or that my mouth wasn’t registering enough shock. Or even that I didn’t immediately jump up and hug the gift-giver and thank them in tears.
Of course, I liked getting free stuff, but a lot of times it just seemed like another ritual that needed to be done, so I went along with it.
‘But I Don’t Need This’
Even now, as a 30-something adult, I still struggle with receiving gifts. If I see something I want… I just order it online and have it in my hands within a couple of days. Most of the time, it’s not an impulse buy. As an introvert, I usually carefully weigh the pros and cons of buying each item, as well as determine the value of the price tag associated with it.
While this works for me a lot of times, it can work against me when receiving gifts from other people, especially during the holidays. Not only does it make buying me gifts that I “need” terribly difficult, but often my brain’s first response to receiving a gift is a logical one: “I don’t need this.” While that may be true, that thought combined with my “INTJ death stare” dampens the holiday cheer that my wife is trying to spread.
So, this holiday season, I set out to learn how to make it less awkward for me to receive gifts — and more enjoyable for my family to give them to me. Here are three things I’ve learned, which I hope help you this holiday season, too.
3 Gift-Receiving Tips for Introverts
1. Before you open it, pause and think about what the gift-giver means to you.
Whether you’re opening a gift in front of 20 people or by yourself with nobody around to judge your reaction, take a moment to pause before you open it. Think about who sent you the card or wrapped box. For a brief moment, set aside all the baggage your relationship with that person might carry. And before you open the gift, remind yourself why you’re grateful for that person with a specific thought pattern.
For me, it goes like this: “I’ve been married to her for 11 years, so she’s seen all the good/bad/ugly parts of me, and she’s still going out of her way to try to get me something that’s just for me, simply because she loves me.” Or, “I’m grateful that my dad is alive to send me another gift this Christmas.”
When I focus on the gift-giver as more important than the gift itself, I’m drawn toward gratitude for them and for whatever is in the package. That leads to a far more healthy response to whatever is in the box than if I’m just focused on the gift and its usefulness in my life. Then, I’m far more likely to naturally show the person how much I appreciate them, as well as the gift they’ve given me.
2. Thank the gift-giver in a way that works for you, such as one-on-one or via text.
Express gratitude for the gift you’ve been given in a way that will allow you to fully show that you’re thankful. In true introvert form, you might not know what to say — on the spot — especially if you’ve been given a gift in public. That’s okay! But don’t let that be the end of it. If you stop there, it might unintentionally communicate that you aren’t grateful for the gift… or worse, the person. This is far from the truth, so make sure you give yourself the opportunity to thank them. You can:
- Approach them later one-on-one and thank them. This is the kind of meaningful conversation an introvert is great at, and you don’t have the pressure of the entire room listening to what you’re saying.
- Write a thank-you note. Especially for weddings or baby showers, where you get so much stuff. Block off time within the week after the event to sit down and write thank-you notes not only for the gift, but also the support and involvement from the person and families who gave it. This is incredibly meaningful to both the person reading the note, and you’ll find that writing the note makes you even more aware of your thankfulness for that person. And, this year, as many people celebrate a socially-distanced holiday due to the pandemic, writing a thank-you note is a great way to show your gratitude to anyone you can’t see in person.
- Send a follow-up text. A simple text the same day you got the gift goes a long way. “Thank you again so much for the ___. I really appreciate the time and effort you spent to make me feel special…” Most of the time, introverts are better at texting than talking, due to the way our brains are wired. Plus, you don’t have to worry about your facial expression when you’re sitting on the couch at home texting people you love. They’ll feel appreciated on the other end of that text, and it might bring a huge smile to their face.
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3. Tell people what you want, so you’re naturally more excited to receive the gift.
There are few things more challenging for spouses and siblings during the holiday season than choosing the perfect gifts for the introverts on their shopping lists, because we may not be very vocal or obvious about what we want. Observant and thoughtful, many introverts are good at gift-giving themselves, which just adds to the pressure on others who want to return the favor.
So, do your loved ones a favor and create a gift wish list ahead of your birthday or the holidays. Choose items that can be easily purchased online, and make it simple for them by sending them links to the exact things you want. They might have to get over it feeling a bit disingenuous, but they’ll get over it, and in the end, both parties will feel good. It will take the stress away for them, and you’ll get something you really want — ultimately making it less awkward when you open the gift on Christmas morning.
Introvert, what helps take the awkwardness out of gift-receiving for you? Let me know in the comments below.