Practical Secret Keeping

First off, I would just like to lay claim to my crown as the best gift-giver I know. And with the holidays coming up I figured I’d let you all in on the secret, so you can share in the glory.

The key to giving a great gift, and delivering it well, is two-fold:

1. Find something meaningful to the receiver, and then
2. SURPRISE them with it!

This one-two punch is really key, and the thing that will distinguish you from any other gift-giver this person has ever received a gift from.

For Example:

Neil turned 30 yesterday, and I managed to surprise him with a Fender Stratocaster, and an amp and all the bits and bobs in-between.

I managed to pile it all on his side of the bed when he got up this morning to pee, and he was blown away and totally delighted.

He’d had a similar guitar in high school & university, which was stolen (along with a bunch of other things) when his house was broken into many years ago. They were never replaced. Since then, he’s acquired a new acoustic guitar and has occasionally commented on acquiring an electric one.

It’s one of those things that’s just frivolous enough that it never quite makes the top of the list on “stuff I’m going to buy myself” but consistently lingers in the back of the mind as an “I’d really like to have one of those someday.”

Those things make the PERFECT gifts.

Nevermind asking people what they want, the answer is usually something they could still imagine buying for themselves. After all, if they couldn’t imagine buying it for themselves, how could they imagine anyone else buying it for them? Another good tack is to get an oft-mentioned but never acquired childhood, teenaged or young adult desire. These usually take the form of particular cars, concert tickets, musical instruments or experiences (yes, you can buy the opportunity to captain a schooner for a day if you wish).

And these gifts are also often not expensive. A copy of a favourite book, or a photo or image of their favourite place can be more meaningful than many other things. The key is finding something that strikes a chord with the recipient.

So if your person has mentioned something a couple times, perhaps non-committally, and you know they’d never buy it for themselves, and you want to be the best gift-giver they know, go ahead and get it for them. They will really, truly appreciate it.

An aside here, point 1b if you will, is to make sure you are giving a COMPLETE gift. It would’ve been silly for me to get just a guitar, since Neil would’ve had to go shopping for an amp before he could use it. By gifting the whole package, he could take the guitar, amp and cable and play with his new toy right away.

Use a similar approach with any gift you give, and everyone will think you put 10x more effort into the gift than you actually did. For example, if you give a digital camera, make sure the battery’s charged and get some extra memory so it’s ready to use right away. If you give a lovely candle, some matches and a snuffer. A great book gets a bookmark, and maybe some tea (or other beverage/snack your giver likes) to enjoy it with. See? Easy!

Which brings us to part the second: the surprise!!!

This is honestly the hardest part of the gift giving, and the part that elevates your already very good gift to GREAT.


Most people I know are highly lousy secret keepers. And really, they aren’t invested in making you a supreme gift giver anyhow – it just raises the bar for them.

You can tell people who your gift recipient is unlikely to encounter, such as co-workers or your book club group or something, but do not tell any mutual friends.

This might kill you. But remain strong!

And do not allude to the gift, the gift giving occasion or anything to do with either of the two. If the recipient offers up a few suggestions on gifts, take them graciously. If they ask whether you’ve found something yet (rude and greedy suchandsuches they are!) simply shrug nonchalantly and say “Oh, I have a few ideas I’m working on” and leave it at that.

And you’ll find you’ve finally made it to the gift giving occasion! Huzzah! Hand over your carefully chosen parcels and enjoy the exhuberance and excitement radiating off the recipient as he or she opens their gifts.

You are now a gift-giver extraordinaire! Bask in the glow of their admiration. You deserve it!

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4 thoughts on “Practical Secret Keeping

  1. knemesis

    I always find it strange that some people tell other people what their gifts are. I didn’t grow up in a family where we did this. Why on earth would people tell the person getting the gift what they’re going to get?! Arg.

  2. Jean

    Did you buy yourself earplugs or is it bearable?
    I love surprises although often the anticipation is better than the gift! I nead to learn to hint better or get a more perceptive husband!

  3. Derek K. Miller

    Your gift is great, but depending on the giftee, the opportunity (no, obligation!) to go out and buy an amplifier would make the gift even better, rather than incomplete, for some of us.

    Of course, I own seven guitars, so I may be a different sort than your fine husband. But the “go get yourself the rest” approach (especially with a gift certificate) could be appropriate in some instances.

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