How to Give Someone a Gift Without Being Awkward

Waitress: “Thanks for coming in!”

Me: “You too!”


If this describes your life in a nutshell, don’t fret. There’s nothing wrong with being a little awkward! It’s endearing. Lovable. Sweet.

I mean, that’s our story and we’re sticking to it. Awkward situations only feed our awkwardness, and what’s more awkward than gifting someone a present?

What if it’s not their birthday? What if they hate it? What if they think you’re actually crushing on them, when really you just thought that sweater would legit look nice on them?

What if, what if, what if…

Well, don’t lay awake all night bemoaning what you could’ve/should’ve/would’ve said/done/given. Let us help you.

Our website is supported by our users. We sometimes earn a commission when you click through the affiliate links on our website. See our privacy policy & disclosures for more information.

How to Give Gifts Without Being Awkward (A Guide for Awkward People)

We’ve established that you’re as awkward as an octopus wearing shoes, but we like you anyway.

And so do your friends! They think you’re topnotch (if a little socially impaired).

Nothing strikes more fear into the awkward one’s heart than being invited to a party. The people! Eek! The small talk! Gulp! The gift giving? Ack!

You want to bring something good enough to smooth over the fact that you’re going to faceplant all evening. Emotionally and socially speaking, that is. Actually, there may be literal faceplanting involved before the night is through.

You came, you saw, you made it weird.

Anyways, here’s how to give gifts without being (too) awkward.

1. Choose a good gift

Don’t get creative.

Seriously. You’re here because you’re awkward, not because you’re suave and smooth. So back away from that designer turkey baster or that gold macramé crop top.

And, for all the is right and proper in the world, don’t even THINK about putting together a scrapbook for that ex.

What you want to do instead is go with something that’s a bit on the nondescript side. Something they can forget about in a minute, not side-eye you the rest of the evening because you gave them something weird.

Don’t be pushy either! Gifting a mere acquaintance something that would only be appropriate for a family member or a longtime friend just makes everyone around you cringe.

We’re talking something on the dull side:

  • A potted plant (NOT a large one that you have to lug up their driveway, tripping and falling every few feet, until you arrive, panting and red-faced at their door), or
  • A scented candle (NOT a sexy-time scented candle, why do we need to explain this to you?), or
  • A classic book (NOT Moby Dick, no one in history actually likes that book, also don’t give anything with, you know, Richard in the title), or
  • A bottle of wine (But certainly NOT if they’re recovering alcoholics – go with chocolate instead)

2. In general, avoid giving money

Money is acceptable, to some extent even expected, at weddings and graduations. That’s when young people are making a new start, and often don’t have all the resources that the older and more experienced crowd might have.

Aside from that, pretty much don’t give money. It gets awkward real fast. Especially if you drive a creeper van and/or work in politics.

3. Avoid crappy gifts

But because you don’t know what constitutes a crappy gift (after all, why are you even reading this?), we’re going to spell it out for you, in a nice bullet list.

Take this list with you when shopping.

Don’t even think about:

  • A coupon book with handwritten IOUs. No one wants your backrub, you oddball.
  • An item of clothing in the wrong size. What size are they, you ask? None of your beeswax. Don’t get clothing.
  • A piece of exercise equipment. Nothings says passive-aggressive gaslighting like gift-wrapping a treadmill.
  • A live animal. Why? Why would you do that to someone you say you like?
  • Anything related to cleaning. “Happy anniversary, honey, hope you like this vacuum!” (And you’re wondering why she gives you a coupon for counseling every year.)
  • Food that quite literally never expires. We’re talking fruitcake, those grody looking jars full of pickled things that are top of your Nanna’s plant shelf collecting dust, anything resembling Twinkies, decorative containers filled with dried beans, expired chocolate from the dollar store, pickled pig’s feet… You know what? Just don’t gift food at all. You have horrible taste.
  • A re-gifted anything that is still presented in its original wrapping, complete with tag made out to you, from Mom.

4. Avoid gifts that could be misinterpreted

Such as a:

  • Negligee for your coworker
  • Wedding photo frame for your ex
  • Bottle of wine for your 18 year old niece
  • Handful of candy given out of your truck with tinted windows at say, your nephew’s kindergarten
  • Casual mention of owing them a nice dinner, only to realize you accidently just asked out your boss
  • Whole roast turkey being brought to your new daughter-in-law on Thanksgiving when she specifically asked you bring the stuffing

If you’re still reading this article at this point, you MUST also read this one: The 21 Worst Gift Ideas Ever. Seriously, why do we have to spell out everything for you?

5. Give gifts at the proper occasions

As in, don’t fall into inappropriate gift giving. That’s weird and, well, inappropriate. Which makes things really awkward.

So, here’s when you can or should give gifts:

  • Birthday
  • Retirement
  • Graduation
  • Wedding
  • Christmas
  • Housewarming

Here are the times you SHOULDN’T give gifts:

  • Anniversaries (someone else’s)
  • Graduation (when you weren’t invited)
  • At the office, “just because” (it’s either some form of bribery or making a pass; don’t do it)
  • At a breakup (don’t go all Lloyd Dobler and Dianne Court. Remember the pen.)

6. What to say when giving a gift

“I saw this and thought of you!” (Unless it’s a weight-loss shake.)

“I hope you like it!”

“It’s just something small that I thought you might enjoy.”

That’s it. Keep it simple. Less chance of putting your foot in your mouth, amirite?

7. What NOT to say when giving a gift

“I was up all night knitting this banana hammock for you!”

“This LITERALLY cost me my whole paycheck.”

“What’d you get me?”

“Open it now! I have to see the look on your face! Hurry up!”

“I hope it’s your size!”

“There’s a gift receipt taped to it because I know it’s wrong. It’s all wrong! EVERYTHING I DO IS WRONG!”

“Tag! You’re it!”

8. Have a gift stash in case someone gives you a gift and you awkwardly don’t have one for them

Simply say, “I’m so glad you remembered because I did too!” And then hand them that extra toaster you’ve had in the original box since 2003, or those cute coffee mugs that you forgot you had.

See? Easy peasy, lemon squeasy.

But if you don’t have a gift stash? Easy peasy, lemon awkward. “Here, have the shirt off my back. No, really. Take it. I WANT YOU TO HAVE IT.” *skulks away, in a manic panic, awkward, and half nekked.

9. Be prepared to receive nothing in exchange, in case they didn’t get you a gift

Who is feeling awkward now?! You both are!

Solidarity, my friend.

10. Avoid the awkwardness by giving the gift anonymously

Not creepy at all. Unless it’s something from Victoria’s Secret. Or your favorite photo of them… sleeping.

Okay, you know what? Just sign the dang gift tag and quit trying to be mysterious. You can leave it on their porch, ship it, or drop it off at the front desk.

But for goodness sake, put your name on it so they don’t think it’s a weirdo stalker.

11. Mail the gift instead

Leave the awkward handover to the mail-person. Your gift recipient lives across the street? Who cares. Mail it.

You can peer through the curtains to watch their reaction if you must.

12. Doorbell ditch, then text them

You need to be in shape for this one. Driveways can be long. And treacherous.

Nothing says I’m awkward like tripping over the azaleas in your frantic attempt to make it to your car before they see you.

Plus, you know how easily your ankles turn.

13. Reward yourself for a job well done

Well done. You’ve done your research and got the scoop on non-weird gift giving from the experts (that’s us).

At least you tried. Let people know and reward yourself just a teeny bit with this awkward-reducing “I tried” pin.

In short, our awkward penguins, embrace your weirdness. It’s what people love about you: your endearing lack of social graces and your uncanny ability to turn any situation into one fraught with muffled laughter, raised eyebrows, and second-hand embarrassment.

You are you and you’re the only one!

And if it all goes sideways on you, at least you brought the perfect gift for the occasion.

Pin It

Awkward Gift Giving Guide