Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.

— Dave Barry

I’m going to tell you an embarrassing story. 

One Christmas, my boyfriend (now husband), mother and I went to visit my aunt and cousins, share some Christmas cheer and exchange gifts. 

I was looking forward to giving my aunt her gift. Like really looking forward to it. I always love watching people’s faces when they open gifts. I love the warm fuzzies I get from seeing how happy it makes them.  

My aunt works very hard so that Christmas I got her a neck massager, thinking it would help her relax her tired, achy muscles. 

As my sweet aunt opened her present, an awkward silence fell over the room. She thanked me for the gift (she’s always been very gracious), but something was very off. 

Later in the car on the way home, I wondered aloud to my boyfriend about the weirdness with the gift. 

He said, “I think we were all just really surprised that you would get your aunt a vibrator.”


I DIDN’T get her a vibrator! 

Why would anyone have thought that? I got her a NECK massager! Just because it’s kind of long and vibrates doesn’t mean…uh-oh.

Oh. My. God.

I had just unwittingly given my aunt a sex toy for Christmas. 

In front of my cousin. 

And my mother. 

And God.

To say I was humiliated would be an understatement. 

I was totally mortified. Embarrassed beyond belief. 

Even today I cringe as I write this, reliving that moment of revelation. 

Not all gift-giving faux pas are as dramatic as mine was, and I’ll bet you’ve got your own as well. If you don’t have stories about giving terrible gifts, you definitely have stories about the awful ones you’ve received. 

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking you won’t make the same mistake I made. I’m sure that’s true (at least I hope so, for your sake). 

But why settle for NOT giving someone a bad gift when you could knock it out of the park by giving them a fantastic gift?


Give them a gift based on their personality type. 

The personality types you will see below are described in terms of the element of nature that their personality most closely resembles – Earth, Air, Water or Fire. In my personality system that I use with coaching clients, I call this their Strongest Element. (Click here to take the Quiz and find out which is YOUR Strongest Element. It’s quick.)

The Earth Element

Earth Element personalities are drawn to order, structure and tradition. They are highly dependable, responsible, and reliable. They respect authority. They love crossing off their to-do lists. They are parental. On a bad day, they can be stubborn martyrs. But like the Earth, they are solid and stable.

Gifts They Will Love:
•    Practical gifts like stationary, journals, and personalized note pads, good pens.
•    Traditional or status gifts like jewelry or savings bonds.
•    Sentimental gifts like framed family portraits or keepsakes from important occasions.

Gifts to Avoid At All Costs:
•    Anything raunchy – that’s usually not their thing and they won’t think it’s funny.
•    Anything too expensive – they will worry that it was an impulse purchase you couldn’t really afford.

The Water Element

These people are sympathetic, caring listeners. You feel comfortable confiding in them instantly. They focus on developing potential – in themselves and in others. They are romantic, compassionate and empathetic. On a bad day they are fickle drama queens. But like an ocean wave on a summer day, they are warm and nurturing.

Gifts They Will Love:
•    Romantic gifts like time alone with you (especially if you both tend to be very busy normally)
•    Unique gifts like poetry or a song your wrote for them
•    That personal or spiritual development course they’ve had their eye on. (This one is tricky, because it has to be something they’ve already expressed a desire for. Do not get creative and suggest a personal development course.)

Gifts to Avoid At All Costs:
•    Anything too practical – it will feel bland to them.

The Air Element

Air Elements are open-minded, logical, rational people. They consider all sides of a situation before making decisions. They research. They are experts in whatever they are passionate about. They explore big ideas. They are intellectual and academic by nature and comfortable with complexity. On a bad day they can be sarcastic perfectionists. But like a wide-open sky, they are all about possibilities.

Gifts They Will Love:
•    Books about their area of expertise. (This one is tricky, because you need to get them a book they don’t already have.)
•    Technology & gadgets. You would be on safer ground if you get them a gift certificate so that they can choose the right specifications.
•    Knowledge-based excursions/adventures. They love a chance to broaden their knowledge of something by getting a close up look.

Gifts to Avoid At All Costs:
•    Anything too romantic – they appreciate the gesture, but they get squirmy about it.
•    Anything too cliché. 

The Fire Element

Fire Element personalities are always in motion. They are energetic go-getters. Of all personality types, Fire Elements are the most comfortable with change. They are determined, resourceful and able to rebuild easily. Naturally optimistic and charismatic, they are often the life of the party. On a bad day they can be competitive and self-destructive, but like a roaring bonfire, they are magnetic and dynamic.

Gifts They Will Love:
•    Adventurous gifts like hot air balloon rides or zip lining. 
•    Tickets to sports events for their favorite team.
•    New tools. Supplies for their favorite hands-on projects.

Gifts to Avoid At All Costs:
•    Anything too traditional – it will feel boring to them.

Now it’s your turn. What’s the best gift you ever received? How about the most embarrassing gift you ever gave? Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to tell me your Strongest Element.

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