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How to Achieve Successful Valentine's Day Gifting
Oh No--Here It Comes Again
The approach of Valentine's Day inspires a certain low-level, gut-tightening dread for many men and women, however happily attached they may otherwise be. It isn't gender that matters here: it's your Myers-Briggs preference for Thinking or Feeling. It's an unavoidable fact that Thinkers and Feelers tend to see the concept and process of gift-giving completely differently, and their natural, inborn, hardwired differences can lead to major misunderstandings and a less than successful Valentine's Day. However, all is not lost: even if your beloved has the opposite preference to yours, you can learn the secret to selecting Valentine's Day gifts that will have him or her purring with pleasure.
Thinkers and Feelers and How They Give
It's helpful to remember that this is less a man-woman dichotomy than a thinking-feeling dichotomy. From the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) perspective, two-thirds of men and one-third of women bring an objective, impersonal perspective to the decision-making process: they are task-oriented first and people-oriented second when making decisions, and their preference is referred to as Thinking. Two-thirds of women and one-third of men bring a subjective, personal perspective to the decision-making process: they are people-oriented first and task-oriented second when making decisions, and their preference is referred to as Feeling. Gender does not matter here: Thinking men and women approach gift-giving in the same way, and so do Feeling men and women.
Thinkers believe a good decision has been made when it gets the job done effectively, and this is how they approach gifting: it's a task to be accomplished, preferably with a minimum of fuss and time. In the great scheme of things, it's not a big deal.
Feelers believe a good decision has been made when the people affected by it are happy, and this is how they approach gifting: it's a symbol of the love they feel for the recipient, the value they place on the person and the relationship. On every level, it's a huge deal.
Since opposites do attract, and the odds are in their favor, Thinkers and Feelers tend to select each other to love, setting the stage for major conflict and misunderstanding on the issue of gift-giving.
Feelers spend a great deal of time and effort to select exactly the right gift for their beloved, one that expresses their love and the value they place on the relationship. Feelers tend to select wonderfully thoughtful gifts that are received with pleasure. Carefully observing the beloved throughout the year, they have a thorough knowledge of his or her interests, pursuits, and values. Though they will spend a lot of money if they have it, they don't feel that monetary value is what's important; what matters is the love and thought that go into the gift. Above all, it must have meaning to the recipient; it must be significant in the context of their relationship. This is easy and obvious to the Feeler.
Unfortunately, it's neither easy nor obvious to the Thinker. Thinkers aren't stupid; they're simply not focused on the personal aspects of life. With their task-oriented decision-making process, they're going to give a few minutes' thought to the question, and then decide that since the Feeler spends so much time vacuuming, and complains a lot about the old vacuum, a new vacuum cleaner would make a perfect gift, especially if the Thinker can afford an expensive one with all the latest bells and whistles. Or perhaps it will be a set of paint brushes (not the artistic kind) so the beloved can finally get started on painting the house, which they've been saying for months they were going to do.
You'd think no scenario could be worse, but the Thinker can manage it: it happens when he or she calls the beloved on Valentine's Day and says, "I'm at the mall. What do you want for your Valentine's Day gift?" This offends the Feeler on every level: it indicates that the Thinker places little value on the Feeler or their relationship, doesn't pay enough attention through the year to know what the Feeler would like, and can't be bothered to put in the time and effort to find a meaningful gift. The Thinker is now in big trouble, and the odds against rescuing the situation are long. About one in higher-than-the-Thinker-can-count.
Thinkers can learn, however, and they do try. After all, last year's two weeks of cold silence and no--um--contact--in bed after the vacuum debacle was unpleasant and successfully conveyed to the Thinker the advisability of a different sort of gift. So when the next Valentine's Day rolls around, Thinkers set themselves to consider what might be a better idea. Unfortunately, since it's still a task to be accomplished as expeditiously as possible, the Thinker's thought process is not yet focused on nebulous terms like "meaning" and "significance." What the Thinker learned while tossing and turning on the sofa last year was that he or she doesn't seem to know what the beloved wants, and a new and brilliant idea dawns: a gift certificate! Perfect! With a gift certificate, the beloved can buy whatever he or she wants. How could this fail? The Thinker will learn the answer this year when cold food is added to the cold silence and the cold bed.
Struggling the following year to accomplish something that is just foreign to his or her nature, the Thinker may make the classic mistake of giving the beloved something the Thinker wants the Feeler to have, rather than something the Feeler actually wants. This can include things like fishing tackle for a beloved who hates the outdoors ("How do you know you hate it? You never go outside!"), gourmet cooking lessons for a beloved who doesn't know or care where the kitchen is ("But, honey, think of all the romantic dinners you could make for us!"), or a gym membership for a beloved whose idea of exercise is walking up and down every aisle of Home Depot to see whether any new tools have been invented ("Oh, come on, once you break through the fatigue and get that endorphin flood, you'll love it!") Remember this clue: if you have to persuade the beloved that this is something he or she wants, it's a big, fat failure.
Don't Despair--Here's the Solution!
How can this frustrating, indigestion-inducing, headache-creating dilemma be solved? The Thinker and the Feeler are going to have to make some changes, that's how. Though it may initially be a little unpleasant, it will prevent any more Valentine's Days that end with Thinkers slamming out of the house and going to the gym while the Feelers retire with crushed feelings and the belief that the Thinker hates them.
The thing you both have to do is to take your opposite's preference into consideration and move in your beloved's direction.
Feelers: tell the Thinker what you want. Oh, I know, I know, you're recoiling in distaste, because you're certain that if the Thinker really loves you, if they know you at all, if they aren't completely deaf and blind, they should be able to figure out something that will have meaning and significance to you. A gift that you've had to ask for will have neither, right? Well, no. Here's what you have to accept about Thinkers: They don't understand. They want to get it right, they really do, especially after all of the cold food and cold silence and no whoopee in bed. They love you, and they want to thrill you, and they will go to considerable trouble and inconvenience and expense to do it, but they don't know what you want. I know you think it should be obvious if they're paying any attention at all, but it isn't. They're just not wired that way, and no amount of hurt feelings or reproaches or tears is going to change that.
Instead, start working to get the message across in a way they can understand. At first this may even necessitate the use of a list, which I know you'll hate. Just remember, training takes time. You're fighting centuries of evolution here. You could make it a really long list, so the Thinker will have lots to choose from and you won't know what it might be (of course, with really unevolved Thinkers you may get the first item on the list because they didn't read any farther, so be prepared for that). You can set up a code they can't miss (because you've explained it to them), like catalogs left lying around the house with things circled in your favorite color (you may have to tell your beloved which color that is). Be prepared for some misses; the Thinker may conclude that all of those circled cashmere sweaters mean you're cold and want a quilted anorak, or that the pictures of gun sights mean you'd like to visit a habitat for endangered species, but they're trying, and eventually they'll start getting it right.
Thinkers: accept the fact that gifts have a whole different meaning to your beloved than they do to you, and that's not going to change. Ramp up your efforts accordingly; apply your intelligence and creativity, and treat this like the challenge it is. To do this, you must pay attention. If your beloved keeps talking about how romantic it would be to spend a weekend at a bed-and-breakfast in Vermont, make a reservation for Valentine's Day weekend. If they cut you a break by giving you a list, buy or make (yes, make) something that's on the list--and then an additional gift that's not. Think really hard about that second gift; repeat to yourself, "Significance. Meaning." Even if you get it wrong, you'll get points for your effort, especially if you can explain why you thought this would have significance and meaning to your beloved. (Tip: explanations like, "Well, your sister likes it" should be avoided.) Even if your explanation is ridiculous, your beloved will think you're adorable for trying.
A nice benefit to loving a Feeler is that a creative and romantic gift that you made yourself will be far more wonderful in their eyes than an expensive but impersonal gift. Here are a couple of gifts that were huge successes with Feelers I know:
1. Eight photographs of you in locations that have special meaning to you and your beloved. In each photo, you're holding a sign with a letter on it. The letters are I, L, O, V, E, Y, O, and U.
2. Three boxes for your beloved to open, each with one large, helium-filled balloon that has a word written on it. The three words are I, Love, and You. Each balloon should float up out of its box when your beloved opens it. You can tie a ribbon with a weight to the end of each balloon, but it will have an even more dramatic effect if you leave the weight off. Let them float away, trailing the ribbons.
Corny? Boring? Ridiculous? Maybe in your eyes, but not in the Feeler's. I can assure you that this type of gift will score major points and lots of kisses, not to mention what might come afterward.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Now that you know your preference for Thinking or Feeling makes a significant difference in the way you approach gift-giving, you can adjust your approach to your beloved opposite and make Valentine's Day a day filled with happy memories and wonderful gifts!