EDITORIAL: Love languages can help you find the perfect gift

Nov. 30—If you read the newspaper Thanksgiving morning, you may have seen the article, courtesy of WVU Today, about people's gift-giving habits: "Research shows holiday shoppers often don't buy what recipients want."

The research by Julian Givi, an assistant professor of marketing at the John Chambers College of Business and Economics, records some interesting trends, including that there's often a disconnect between what gift-givers think their friends and family want and what the gift-receiver actually wants.

On the giver's side, Givi noted a reluctance to purchase items that seem "lesser " than what the giver owns, even if the receiver doesn't want or need all the bells or whistles. That one makes sense: No one wants to give a gift that unintentionally says "I think you deserve less than I do." Part of a present's purpose is to communicate "I value you and our relationship " and givers understandably want to avoid insulting the receiver by giving an "inferior " gift.

Givi also noticed that givers were reluctant to cross ideological lines to get the perfect present, such as a vegetarian refusing to give a gift card to a steakhouse. There's a degree of logic to this, too: We can love a person and not agree with everything they do or like, and many of us may be hesitant to compromise our own values by supporting a business with which we don't agree.

There was also a strange reluctance to give the recipient exactly what they asked for. It seems there are lots of givers who prefer the presents be a surprise rather than perfect.

On the receivers' side, Givi found that recipients often liked getting sentimental (think, handwritten notes) or unconventional gifts, such as e-readers for Valentine's Day.

After reading about Givi's research, we think there's one specific disconnect that's missing: Conflicting love languages.

Love languages are the ways that people like to receive and express affection and appreciation. There are five primary love languages: Words of affirmation ("I love you, " "you did great, " "I'm proud of you "), acts of service (cleaning the house, doing the laundry, mowing the lawn), gifts (this one is self-explanatory), quality time (date night, chilling together at home, going on a trip together) and physical touch (hugging, cuddling, pats on the back).

Most people have more than one love language, usually in a hierarchy of most preferred to least preferred, and a person can have a giving language that's different from their receiving language. For example, someone may love to give gifts but would rather receive quality time in return.

Sometimes, finding the perfect gift means the giver must set aside their own love language. An "acts of service " giver might have to bite the bullet and head to the store for their "gift " recipient. A "words of affirmation " giver might have to put their money where their mouth is and plan a weekend getaway or staycation for their "quality time " recipient. A "gift " giver might have to clear out the online shopping cart and spring for a massage gift certificate for their "physical touch " recipient ... You get the idea.

So as you think about the perfect present for each person in your life this year, think about what that person values most. You may have to approach the giving from a different love language perspective, but it will be worth it when you find the gift that's just right.