Ah, the Christmas season has begun! A time for family, great food and gift giving! One problem: The thought of Christmas shopping makes most men cringe. I would guess that most men would do diaper duty instead of hitting the mall! Yet, we know we have to do it AND it’s coming up pretty quickly here. When you think of shopping for your wife or special loved one, you can’t help but think of the scars from past failures. The dress that was three sizes too big (How big do you think I am?). The new vacuum cleaner (Oh, I guess the place is a mess, huh?). The earrings that exactly match the set she already has (You idiot, don’t you notice anything?). You try every year- yet it always ends in failure. You want to give up- just go all gift certificates. You know that this isn’t personal. Doesn’t show you really care. No, won’t work. What can you do? I am writing this based on wisdom gained from pure failure. I have made just about every stupid mistake possible. Yet, I am getting better. Last year, I probably did about 80% not returned. Not saying that this year will be as good, but I am gaining confidence. I know I will get a couple gifts right. And this is the way it should be. Because it’s important to her. You want to see genuine joy on her face on Christmas. Not- “Oh, thanks Honey…” and then it gets returned. You want it to be really special for her.
OK- so what do we do? Here is a list of hints that have been helpful for me through the years. Understand ALL women are different, so I may not have this exactly right for your loved one so adjust as you see fit.
- Planning: Start thinking about gift giving NOW. Very often she will give you hints about what she wants. Some will be subtle and others are not. Be careful with the non-subtle hints. This is when she is all but TELLING YOU what she wants. Write it down! You will forget- trust me. Make a list of these hints and ideas. Start now!
- Do the Recon: Before you hit the mall, a reconnaissance mission is required. When she is out of the house, go through her closet and dresser and write down the sizes for her clothes. Be careful here. Her closet can be full of traps. There are often things in there that she wishes would fit. Find the clothes that she always wears. Look at the tags for the brands. You may be able to get hints on the stores where she shops. Write down the sizes and the brands.
- Right Style: Really LOOK at what she wears. You do not want to be a pioneer here. Even if you don’t really care for the style she likes, buy what she wears. She’ll tell you that she loves what you bought her- yet she will never wear it. My daughter tells my wife that she dresses like a hippy while my daughter dresses conservatively. Don’t generalize. Buy what she will wear!
- Get the List: Ask her for a list. Don’t think that you are so good that you don’t need a list. Get a few slam dunks in along with some more risky items. Nothing worse than seeing it all go on the return pile. Quiz her on her list. She will likely give you more ideas as she describes what she wants. Get all of the details- stores, sizes, colors, everything. These are givens- so go get em!
- Shop with Her: Go Christmas shopping with her. While she is shopping for others she will spot clothes or items that she wants. She may tell you to get something specifically or she may just be drawn to something. Typically she will see something that she wants but thinks it’s too expensive. Jackpot. This is good target. Snap your mental picture and return later and make the buy. Shopping with her is gold. You will get great hints here. So do it!
- Danger Zone: There are certain gifts that are very risky. Stay away from risk- this isn’t Vegas! Here are a few:
- Practical Gifts: Household items, TV, blender, toaster, washer, new roof. May be really needed, but not at Christmas. Unless it’s a list item- stay away! This is REAL quick sand here. Stay with personal gifts. Practical some other time- not Christmas!
- Fitness: Exercise equipment, gym membership, workout clothes, yoga classes, etc. Risky, very risky. Realize the message that you are giving.
- Cooking Items: Careful here. Unless she is an avid cook, you may be delivering that same bad message.
- Victoria Secret: Stay away- this is also a trap! The sizes are about impossible to get right. There is a fine line to trashy. And, what is the message- not sexy enough? Too sexy? Don’t do it!
- Jewelry: This is a typical “go to” for many guys. Spend a bunch of money in one spot- and be done. Easy choice. However- if she is not a jewelry girl- she’ll take it back. Trust me on this one. And then because you chose the “nuclear option”- she’ll have no other gifts that were good. Now you really stepped in it! Be careful here.
- Go it Alone: Don’t bring your buddy or your daughter with you. If you bring your buddy you know where you will end up- Ruby Tuesday’s with a cold beer. Don’t do it! You will just have to go out again. If you bring your daughter and you mess up she will be collateral damage. Ask her what she thinks, but don’t bring her. Keep her out of it. Come on…she’s family!
- Use the Mannequins: The mannequins can be your friend! See how it looks on them. They generally put some of the best selling styles on the mannequins. Look at colors and styles. Stripes, black, paisley, whatever. You will know what’s in by looking at the mannequins. You can also see what it looks like on. Things look way different on a person than on the clothes rack.
- Ask for Help: Ask the sale people for help. They will help you find sizes and match things up. I am not suggesting that you take ALL of their advice. This is also a trap. I have wrapped suggested outfits that were a total bomb. Stay with the look that you are sure she will like. Don’t experiment with someone else’s taste.
- Start Early: Don’t wait for the last minute. Start now! Get a few things bought and stored away. I will admit that I like getting some last minute items. Getting out a couple days before Christmas with all the other guys is kind of a tradition. I do love the last minute excitement- but if you wait too long you will be stuck with what’s left. All of the common sizes to the cool clothes will be gone. Many of the good gift ideas will be sold out. There are great last minute sales but try to be nearly wrapped up. The internet is a great starting point. Get a few internet purchases done early and start to look for ideas. Do your research on-line so your time can be concentrated on hunter/gathering (pick-up and pay!).
These are a few tips that I have learned through the years that I think are most valuable. Most men would say it’s only Christmas and what does this have to do with leadership? I can assure you that Christmas gifts are very likely much more important to her, than they are to you! I also know that being a bonehead and doing a crummy job sends a really poor message to your kids and others about how much you care about her and the importance of completing a task with excellence. So suck it up and get it done! It’s not that difficult and when you get it right- it is truly magic!