Etiquette Questions, Answered: Holidays and Gifts
Q. No matter the occasion, my friend gives me ridiculously lavish gifts. Once, she gave me an entire line of dishes and serving pieces that must have cost at least $500! I appreciate the gestures, but they make me feel indebted. Plus, I just don’t have the kind of money that she does, so I get uncomfortable. How do I make her stop?
Name withheld by request
A. Ridiculously lavish gifts! If I had such problems, I would be eating off fancier plates. Oh, I’m kidding, I am—and your quid pro quo feeling of indebtedness is completely natural. But a true present is a no-strings-attached act of generosity, and true graciousness means receiving the gift in that spirit. If you accept her offering enthusiastically and enjoy it fully, you’ll have given her more than money can buy.
However, if the crystal champagne flutes and the Limoges gravy boats are making you squirm—and even posing a risk to your friendship—speak up. Say, “I appreciate your generosity, but I wish you wouldn’t give me such expensive gifts, because they make me feel bad that I can’t reciprocate.” She may not stop, but at the very least you’ll have expressed your misgivings and started a conversation. And she’ll get to share her thoughts, which might surprise you. She may feel indebted to you for your friendship or guilty about her relative wealth. Or maybe she just wants to give you nice things. Open the dialogue, clear the air, and then relish the gift of having such a thoughtful friend.