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6 Solutions to Sticky Holiday Situations

6 Solutions to Sticky Holiday Situations

Allison Ford | DivineCaroline

December 13, 2010

We’re faced with more tricky etiquette situations from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve than in the previous eleven months combined. At no other time of the year does etiquette figure as prominently as it does during the time of gift-giving, party-attending, dinner-serving, and houseguest-hosting.

’Tis the season for social faux pas, but Lizzie Post, Emily Post’s great-granddaughter and author of How Do You Work This Life Thing?, has some sensible advice that can help us all stay a little calmer, cooler, and more collected throughout the holidays.

1. How can I gracefully bow out of my office’s annual gift exchange?
If you’re determined not to take part, take it up privately with the organizer. The important thing is not to make a big show about it, simply saying something such as, “This year, I’d rather not participate.” Whatever your reasons are, you should never feel obligated to go into more detail than you’re comfortable with. However, “decline in a way that won’t make anyone feel guilty for being a part of it,” Post says. Whether you object to the commercialization of the holidays or an extra gift just isn’t in your budget, remember that others may enjoy the experience, and it’s important not to make them feel uncomfortable for choosing to partake.

2. A friend gave me a gift, but I didn’t buy one for her in return. How should I handle this?
Post advises, “Put the focus on the gift itself, not on your lack of a gift.” Focus on your friend’s generosity, thanking her and expressing your appreciation. It’s as easy as saying, “That was so kind of you.” Whatever you do, don’t say that her gift is on back-order or was accidentally left at home. People can see right through these lies, and they’re what can make the situation uncomfortable, not your lack of a gift. Remember, “gift-giving doesn’t have to be a reciprocal act,” says Post. Not every display of generosity has to be returned in kind, and the best way to acknowledge any gift is simply to focus on the gift itself and leave it at that.

3. Is holiday tipping really necessary?
Some people may look at holiday tipping as an old-fashioned, antiquated custom from a previous generation, but it is necessary to show your appreciation for the service providers you rely on throughout the year. Lizzie says that at the Emily Post Institute, they like to think of the custom as “Holiday Thanking.” These expressions of gratitude don’t have to be big, and they don’t have to be a monetary gift, either. Handmade items or home-baked treats are always appreciated, and at the very least, leave a thoughtful card. For providers that you don’t see on a daily or weekly basis, drop a card into the mail during the holiday season if you won’t be seeing them for a few months. It’s never too late to give a card or gift the next time you see them, but it’s more appropriate to send a card while the holidays are fresh on everybody’s mind.

Not everyone has the money to give gifts or cash each year, and that’s okay, but if you’ve acknowledged a provider with a gift in the past, it’s very important to at least send a card in the future. “Otherwise, the provider could be left thinking, ‘Were they not happy with their service this year?’” says Post.

Next: Gifts for Relatives? →

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