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‘Don’t wait for a special occasion’ – and four more tips for great gifting | It’s our thing

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We all know them – the people who seem to have a special skill for giving presents. No matter the occasion, or lack of (more on that later), their gifts are always just right: thoughtful, unique, appropriate and personal.

But how do they do it? And, more importantly, how can the rest of us get it right? Here are five pointers to get you started …

1 Don’t wait for an occasion
If you happen to stumble upon something that instantly makes you think of someone special in your life, why not snap it up and gift it on a “just because” basis (I call this random acts of gifting). Obviously, this won’t always be possible – particularly if you’re beholding a famous artwork or an iconic designer handbag. But smaller tokens – think a charity shop knick-knack, local fare from a trip away or a box of chocolates – given outside of high days and holidays are a great way to show you care. This is because these spontaneous, surprise gifts are given purely out of thoughtfulness rather than any form of obligation, which cannot fail to make the recipient feel cherished.

2 Observe and research
As tempting as it is to ask people what they want, it can show a lack of imagination and effort – and rob the recipient of the joy of a wonderful surprise. And actually, the answers are right there if we are both patient and observant.

Preferences and pet hates of those close to us should be noted: keeping lists of who thinks scented candles are a cop-out and who’s a sucker for salted caramel might seem a little excessive to some, but this approach doesn’t cost anything and pays dividends.

When people seem really interested in a topic, theme or idea, add it to your list. If you overhear them compliment someone else’s trainers, fragrance or jewellery, write it down. These little notes will help build a clear picture of your giftee and make the choosing process a whole lot easier in the long run.

3 Gift in line with your relationship
Gifting appropriately is not as easy as it might sound – after all, appropriateness is kind of subjective. However, keeping in mind how well you truly know someone could be the difference between a gift flopping or flying.

If you buy something extremely luxurious or personal – underwear, perfume or opulent jewellery, for instance – for someone you don’t know particularly well, it could end up making them feel uncomfortable, rather than cherished.

At the other end of the spectrum, giving someone close to you something generic that speaks to their demographic rather than them as a person – think toiletry sets or a gift card – is also likely to jar.

Illustration: Owen Gately/The Guardian

4 An expensive gift doesn’t mean it’s fail-safe
Research has found that the more expensive a present, the more appreciation a giver expects. But the truth is, just because something comes with a huge price tag and plenty of flashy status, it doesn’t automatically mean it’s a great gift.

Money is not the only metric with which to measure generosity. Time, effort, insight and emotional intelligence are equally, if not more, important when it comes to gift giving. Thanks to a potent mix of capitalism, marketing and social media, many of us feel that the only way to gift well is to part with a significant wedge, and that it would be cheap or mean not to. However, offering a skill, service or craft unique to you is extremely valuable, and likely to strengthen bonds, thanks to how personal and truly exclusive it is.

So next time you’re on the lookout for a gift, bear in mind that, for the recipient, it’s the thought that counts far more than the value.

5 Remember that it’s not about you
A common pitfall is buying gifts for other people that you’d love for yourself. It’s only natural to be attracted to colourways, flavours, brands and so on that speak to us, but one of the simplest and most effective things you can do before buying a present is to take a step back and pause to ask if this is truly perfect for the recipient – or perfect for you instead.

In a similar vein, don’t make the mistake of getting into a competitive or reciprocal dynamic when it comes to presents. Being a brilliant gift giver should feel good – but mostly because you’ve made the recipient happy. If you give gifts on the basis that you are going to get a lot of praise for doing so, or anything in return, you might want to rethink your approach.

The perfect gift
The best people in life deserve the best chocolates, so treat them to Lily O’Brien’s Desserts Collection. Indulgent chocolates based on classic desserts – the perfect gift for the ones you really know.

And don’t miss out on a chance to win a hamper of Lily O’Brien’s chocolates to share with a friend

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