Dear Carolyn: I am confused over gift-giving etiquette with the current generation. I have always been prompt in sending gifts, money, cards to my relatives for birthdays, weddings, etc. Yet none of these gifts has been acknowledged.
Is expression of gratitude no longer in fashion? I would like to know what the current protocol is. – P.
Short answer, nothing has changed. Recipients owe givers prompt thanks, in some form.
Long answer, everything has changed.
While it is rude not to acknowledge a gift, and while there seems to be an epidemic of silence by gift recipients, I think it’s oversimplifying to add 1 + 1 and declare an epidemic of rudeness.
I think something else important has happened that doesn’t get enough credit for the clear trend toward unacknowledged gifts: Stuff matters less.
When I was a kid about 1,700 years ago, it was a big deal to unwrap a sweater. New clothes were special. Now, even for many who struggle financially, it’s a yeah-whatever experience; people can now get sweaters (or books or knickknacks or any goods within the purchasing power of a gift card) 24-7.
As a result, many kids and even adults now are immune to their own possessions.
And so I’m not just going to say yes, by all means, start sending only cards to mark your loved ones’ special occasions. I’m going to throw it out there that we’d all do well to give our gift-giving habits a harder look.
Is there something only I can give, even just my thoughts, expertise or time? If I’m not sure, then can I redirect my gift energy into keeping in touch more between birthdays and weddings?
Most of us can, and should, do better both at showing gratitude and teaching its value to “the current generation.” But we can also do better at listening to what changing mass behavior tells us, instead of just trying harder to make the old ways stick – or escalating the protests when they don’t.