The Gift-Receiver Templates Part Four: Surprise or Anticipation

This template is less about the gift itself as it is about how the receiver perceives the importance of knowing.

Some people love to percolate in the mystery and magic of wondering what is going to be under the tree. These people are the ones who will not try, even once they have a gift in their hands, to feel around the contours of it and guess what is in a wrapped package. (Where do they find the self-discipline for this?) They appreciate every last moment until the wrapping is off and the gift is fully revealed. For them, it is the joy of discovery. I call this the Surprise Receiver Template.

Others relish in knowing in advance and being able to project themselves into ownership of the gift in advance. It is wired in them to dream, look forward to, anticipate. This I call, quite creatively, the Anticipation Receiver Template.

The Surprise Receiver Template

This person hates spoilers, never skips to the last page of a book to know what happens. They let the mystery unfold. This person can be a delight to buy a gift for, especially if they are a Sentimental Receiver. In fact, I would argue that the Sentimental Surprise person is the easiest person on our list for whom to buy a gift.

Knowing whether the receiver is a Sentimental or a Practical Gift Receiver will help direct you as you consider what kind of surprise you want to provide.

This person doesn’t want to know anything about their gift until Christmas Day. Because the Surprise Receiver draws out the end reveal until the last second, how you wrap a gift for a Surprise person can add to the fun. Dissimulating a recognizable shape –for example, a pair of socks–by putting it in a small (recycled!) box and then wrapping the box with a ribbon means that the unwrapping will take longer.

I’m not necessarily prescribing this kind of practical joke, but one year when we were growing up, one of my sister’s friends wrapped a gift inside a box, inside a bag, inside another box, with tape and ribbons and…I feel like I remember an Exacto knife had been needed to finally get to the gift. I don’t remember what the gift was, but I remember the wrapping. I remember that it was an experience that everyone at the birthday party was involved in.

Consider that for this person, once the gift is revealed, the surprise is over. So make the revelation an experience! Here’s an idea: hide the gift and give a series of clues to get to it. A little scavenger hunt, just for fun, will add to the drama and the pleasure your Surprise Receiver will enjoy in their gift.

The Anticipation Receiver Template

This person just has to know. This is the person who goes searching through closets and looks for where the gifts are hidden because they just have to know. This, unsurprisingly, is also the person who reads the last page of a book first and needs to know that a movie ends well, asking questions all along the way.

They are fun people to buy for, because they are always asking for hints. Depending on how sadistic you are as a gift giver, this can be fun for you too, up until a point, and as long as you know that you’ve hit the nail on the head in terms of their Sentimental, Practical, Quantity or Quality Templates.

If you are a gentle sadist, and are willing to engage their questions and their demands for hints, then playing the game in an organized way might be fun for both of you. Laying hints, pretending to scuttle about boxes… The Anticipation becomes a game that you play over the course of days or weeks, and not just on Christmas morning, like with the Surprise person.

My sister, the amazing Poppy Fields, is a black belt at giving Anticipation gifts. I wrote about how she handled long-distance gift giving to her two scalawag nephews: it was a Masterclass on dealing with my children.

As an Anticipation person myself, let me suggest that the most satisfying way to receive a gift for us is to know what it is and to be able to enjoy the prospect of ownership before it actually becomes mine. This doesn’t make us Surprise Haters, it just means that we get a ton of pleasure in the knowing.

If you have an Anticipation person on your list, the way to deal with them is much like the Surprise Hater Template: create a back-and-forth to help choose the gift, and then, once the item is chosen, confirm with the person (in a playful way is always more fun) that the deed is done.

The confirmation is important, because then the person can really let themselves go and enjoy the anticipation, increasing the satisfaction even more!

Being able to return to an image of the gift is fun and exciting for the receiver who enjoys anticipation. Either a print copy or a digital photo could be a special little reminder to dole out over the course of the days or weeks prior to Christmas.


On your list of special people to buy gifts for, how could you incorporate the knowledge of their Surprise or Anticipation Template?

In this article, I evoked briefly the idea that we also take pleasure in giving gifts according to different templates, too. For homework, I want you to think about what would be, for you, the most satisfying push and pull as a gift giver. Think about one time when you hit the ball outta the park when it came to giving a gift. What were the conditions?

Up next

On money and gift cards: How having an uncomfortable conversation about money can increase everyone’s satisfaction.

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

4 thoughts on “The Gift-Receiver Templates Part Four: Surprise or Anticipation

      1. Oh yes!! My Mama would have wanted to bop me in the nose! lol But he is a joker from way back- about 50 years or so! 😉 I’m so enjoying you, very glad I found your blog.


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