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Etiquette coaches give tips on how to react to receiving unwanted gifts

It is the season of giving, but what if you don't like what you've gotten? Here's how experts say you can handle it with thankfulness and grace.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It is the season of giving and getting presents, but sometimes you may not like what you've received. No worries, we spoke with Monica and Dairen Lewis of the Monica Lewis School of Etiquette in Houston about how to approach that sometimes awkward situation, in the best way possible:

You get a gift, you open it, you don't really like it, you don't want it. How do you react? What should you say?

Monica: So first, you should say thank you and your face should reflect you saying "thank you" because it's all about the person taking the time out to think of you to purchase a gift for you. And so rather, if not a gift of your choice, just being appreciative of that person actually buying something. Saying thank you will be the right thing to do. But you have to make sure that your face reflects what you're saying.

Darian: Crack a smile, make eye contact. "Thank you, thank you so much for thinking of me. Oh, my goodness."

What if the gift is too extravagant? Is there something you can make someone aware of that you're not maybe comfortable with the amount they're spending?

Darian: Absolutely, you know, you can say that in earnest. This is why one of the big rules is when you receive a gift, you don't necessarily have to open it in front of the person. But on Christmas, we kind of break that rule. And so that you don't become so performative.

But in the event that you have to open the gift and unwrap it, and it's something really extravagant, you can quickly say, "oh, my gosh, thanks so much for thinking of me, you really didn't have to do this, really, this is just too much. This is over the top, we need to talk about this offline." And so then you kind of tentatively plan to talk then, and then have an opportunity to talk with them one on one so that you can discuss maybe your level of comfort with receiving such an extravagant gift.

What if there's no gift receipt included, is it ever okay to ask for one if you plan on returning it?

Monica: You can ask for a gift receipt. What it all depends on [is] who is giving you the gift. So if it's a friend or a relative, you should be able to be comfortable asking, but if someone that you don’t know...

Darian: [If] it was a neighbor or someone that you don't have a personal relationship with you just accept the gift and then you can follow our rules for re-gifting.

And we’ll catch back up with the Lewises after Christmas to talk about returning gifts, the etiquette of re-gifting and more.

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