Change Your Thinking

Angry Gift Giver

Dear Wendi,
Apologies if this sounds petty. I’m a 35-year-old, ex-royal marine commando for 17 yrs. I am currently studying adult nursing in the UK. I am a father, married and have a good circle of friends.

Every year for Christmas I make an effort to either buy a gift or make something for friends and family. I like to think I don’t do this to receive anything. For example this year I made a hamper of chutneys, jam, infused alcohol and mince pies and gave these to all my friends. However, my issue stems from the one or two who didn’t even say thank you.

I got annoyed with them, but then I’m even more annoyed with myself for wanting a thank you. I feel selfish because I shouldn’t do it for that reason.

My question is, am I being selfish for feeling angry or is this just a deeper thing in myself that I need to sort out? Basically do I need to have words with myself, or is this a natural reaction.

I hope you have a Merry Christmas.

Kind regards,

Dear Edward –

Merry Christmas to you too.  This is a simple case of expectation setting (or re-setting).  You are not selfish.  No one who is truly selfish makes a “hamper” of anything and gives it away.  That’s a ton of work.  It’s natural to expect basic courtesy (the socially acceptable expectation) from friends for such a gift.  Just know that it is a numbers game.  For every 100 people, you might give a gift to, 10 will respond poorly and below your expectations for whatever reason. Factor it in.  PLAN on 2-3 of your 25 friends and neighbors being lame about it.  Expect it.  It won’t hurt so much. Now imagine how good it would feel to get all those thank you’s if you didn’t expect a single one?!  It’s a mind game really.  Just change the rules – or expectations.  Next year, make it a game and try to guess who will be the “ONE” (or 3) non-thankers and maybe double up on the jams and alcohol for them.  Mess with them a bit.  🙂  See what I’m getting at?

I learned this lesson when loaning out a book a long time ago. (back when people used to loan out actual books!)  It was a copy of one of my favorite books.  I lent it to a neighbor I didn’t know very well.  He brought it back 8 months later totally thrashed.  He has dropped it, spilled on it and essentially ruined it.  I was so mad and couldn’t believe anyone would act that way.  A few days later, he brought over a nice, hardback brand new version of the book and apologized profusely.  I felt so bad that I had been so angry about a stupid book and had such hard feelings for another person.  So I made up my mind that when I loaned a book to someone – I would “give” it, as a gift, with no strings attached.  Best thing I ever did, because I saved myself from having expectations of others about dumb things, I was less attached to belongings, plus I got the dopamine that comes from acting generously and the end result, is I had nothing to worry about.  If they brought the book back?  Bonus.  It really does work.

The initial expectations you and I had are basically made up – right?  So why not make up expectations that feel good rather than feel terrible?

Keep being merry and kind and generous Edward. The world sure needs more of that kind of thing.

Warm wishes and happy holidays,