What’s the worst gift you’ve been given?

In “Love, Actually,” Emma Thompson’s character gets a Joni Mitchell CD, instead of a fancy necklace she expected, from Alan Rickman who plays her husband. She thought she was getting jewelry after seeing the box in her husband’s jacket. Turns out the pricey trinket was meant for an assistant he was shagging. With the exception of getting an evil Chuckie doll, a present that tells you your husband’s cheating is a gift you wouldn’t want.

A bad gift is bad enough, but what if it came from someone who meant well? Or someone who really has no clue how to pick out the right gifts?

Handle with Grace

Whether the bad gift in question comes from a co-worker, a close friend, or your partner, handle the unsavory present with grace. How you react to something you’re not into reflects how you are as a person.

The first thing to think about is not everyone’s going to be an intuitive gift giver. Maybe you’re astonishingly good at finding the perfect trinket; even when you’re in out-of-the-way gift shops in Phoenix, for example, you always seem to zero in on precious pieces your loved ones consistently adore. But some people do have a hard time figuring out the best presents.

Next, figure out a sincere response. A simple “thank you” will do it; don’t elaborate or go on and on about how you love it. Express your gratitude because it’s the right thing to do – and it’s honest. You are thankful for receiving something. You just disagree with their choice.

You may feel compelled to be exceedingly honest, but rethink it. If you’re a straight shooter, you may start with something like, “I appreciate the thought, but . . . ” the next few words that follow may be regrettable in hindsight.

The level of honesty will be different with an intimate partner. With a person you’re getting serious with, you need to be upfront because that person has to know what you truly like. You may be spending years with that person, so you wouldn’t want them to have a misconception about what makes you smile or frown. So have a conversation, one that’s open and respectful.

A Strategy After Receiving

Sometimes, one person’s bad gift could be someone one else’s must-have. Don’t chuck the collection of low-quality towels, curtains with the crazy pattern, or weird garden gnomes in the closet. Use it by organizing a gift swap party where you and some of your trusted friends pool the most undesirable presents in a box and find something you like.

Just make sure the friends you invite are in no way connected with the person who gave you the gift.

Another option is to look into Amazon’s trade-in program. If you received a device you’d rather not have, see if you can exchange it.

You can also repurpose the gift if you’re into arts and crafts. For example, ugly holiday sweaters could be turned into quirky mittens or Christmas stockings. This way, you could still tell your aunt or cousin you’ve found another purpose for the much-appreciated gift she gave.

A repurposed bad gift avoids the awkwardness of having to explain to a relative or friend where the gift has gone.

Bad gifts don’t have to be stressful. Handle it well and find some other use for the gift. And you will find less anxiety about receiving future gifts you may not want.

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