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How to buy the perfect Christmas present

One area that causes many people enormous stress around Christmas is what presents to buy. You may not think that this has anything to do with NLP but in fact it does. NLP helps you to get greater insight into yourself and those around you; the different ways we have of communicating and the different languages we use. An example of this is that we all have different ways in which we express or like to receive expressions of love and affection. This can be a minefield around Christmas. There are so many people to think about, but once you have worked out your buying habits and their preferences, life becomes easier.

One trap that we often fall into is we buy people what we would secretly like ourselves or think that they ‘should’ have or want. Be honest with yourself, do your presents say more about you than they do the person that you are giving them to? What kind of presents do you buy? Do you buy jewellery or clothes because deep down you like spending time in these sorts of shops? Do you tend to buy gadgets or books, the above could be true of many present buying themes. Worse still is the ‘improvement’ gift. This is something that you think the other person ‘should’ have, e.g., something brighter or more subdued than they would normally choose, in other words something ‘you’ would choose. And what about those bargain hunters amongst us? Hands up if you have ever been in the shop faced with a half priced item and tried to justify in your mind who you could buy it for.

The best gift buyers

Of course the best gift buyers are really good at putting themselves in the other person shoes and really imagining what ‘they’ would like. You could start by thinking about the buying habits of the person you are buying for (particularly if they are getting it wrong for you) as this can be a clue to what they would like to receive. It can be a hard one to trust as it might go against your own beliefs, values and judgements. I talk from experience. For years a family member bought everyone socks for Christmas. For many people this would be the archetypal ‘bad’ present. One that has had little thought, boring and impersonal. Other family members were getting irritated by it. I tried out the theory above and bought him socks for his Christmas present and he was absolutely delighted saying, in a slightly exasperated tone, “I always need socks and nobody ever buys them for me!” He said “I know some people think it is boring to buy socks but it is something that everyone needs!” I have bought him socks ever since and they are always met with gratitude. Do you have a similar friend or relative that buys book tokens or handkerchiefs you might try this with? The presents they are buying you will probably make sense to them.

If you ask people who are good at buying presents how they do it, and use NLP techniques to dig deep, you will find that there is a whole system of values and beliefs at play and a particular strategy that they employ. Often the buyer themselves are unaware of the mechanisms at play and take what they do for granted not really understanding why everyone can’t do it. This eliciting of strategies, values and beliefs to find out how people do things well (not just present buying) is one of the central parts of NLP. A good present buyer typically puts a great deal of importance on getting it right and usually has a belief that they are good at it. Their antennae are out all year round noticing things that the person says that they would like or need. They also have some method of remembering or recording that information as it comes up. It is stored away for when they need it so they are rarely working from cold. They will notice details about their home, what they wear, what they are interested in. With all this stored information they are able to put themselves more easily in their position to make a judgement about what they would like. They tend to plan and leave themselves plenty of time to source the perfect gift, often buying it well in advance of the actual day.

So far however we have only talked about the kind of presents that you go into a shop and buy. For many, the giving and receiving of bought gifts, is the ultimate expression of friendship or love. You spend time choosing a gift and part with your hard earned cash to pay for it. But for some people, these tokens, are well down the list in terms of what they really value. There is much emphasis on the ‘purchased’ gift over this time, powered in part by advertising, but what about the kind of gifts that involve sharing quality time or involve some sort of generous act? For many people these sorts of gifts are worth much more to them and will always be remembered.

One example might be to think more about the words you use. For some people the words that go with the present are as important as the thing. If you know someone who writes loving or kind words in the accompanying card, chances are that is something that they like to get back.

Alternative ideas

Alternative gift ideas along this theme might be:

  • Tickets to a game, a show, the theatre or some other event that you know they would like
  • A nice meal at a restaurant, cooked at your house or taken round to their place

Or hand made tokens promising services like:

  • Planting up some garden tubs for the spring
  • Helping them with their computer
  • Driving them somewhere special
  • A job that you know that they have been putting off and would love a little help with

Or using skills that you have to do something personal for them like:

  • Writing them a poem
  • Painting them a picture
  • Making something for them
  • Putting together a collection of photographs or a DVD
  • Compiling a music CD of tracks you know they like or are of an era that is significant to them

Remember the above are not excuses to be self indulgent and spend time doing your favourite hobby, to work it needs to be done very much with the other person in mind.

Simple acts have different meanings

There are so many options. You might not have the time for some of these ideas for this Christmas, but there are always Birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Anniversaries and of course next Christmas…

This sort of thinking stems from a small section of Field & Field’s NLP Practitioner course that looks at how we all have different ways of communicating love and how often things can be missed or misunderstood because people see things differently and deduce their own meaning. A simple act of giving can have different meaning for different people and is not always received as you intended. Take for example the chap who comes home from work with a bunch of flowers from his wife. He knows his wife likes flowers but is usually too busy or preoccupied to pick some up for her. Tonight he thought he would get some just to say ‘I love you’. Last time he brought flowers home however, it was to say sorry for pranging the car, so when he walked in with his bouquet his wife’s response was “What have you done this time!” Not the response he had hoped for.

This article also touches on the NLP concept of ‘modelling’ where you take something that someone is doing well and elicit what it is they do that makes them so good. In this example we have looked at people who are good at present buying but of course this model can be applied to an infinite number of uses. NLP modelling techniques can be used to understand the factors at play that makes someone stand out as excellent, from the best salesman on the team, to public speaking or simply someone who goes through life oozing confidence.

The fact is NLP training will touch and affect every aspect of your life: from being the best manager to having the sort of personal life that you really want whilst keeping the balance between the two.

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