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How to frame a gift to avoid indebting the receiver

My father said he'd like to go to an organized trip to a SPA, but wished his cousin could also join.

Problem: despite the ticket heavily discounted, the cousin is too poor to afford it.

I said I could pay for my father's ticket and my father could offer the trip to his cousin.

My mom chimed in that the cousin was "too proud" to accept it.

Such as, in emotional terms, the cousin would "lose face".
In power terms, he'd be disempowered as that would sub-communicate he's a failure.
And in social exchange terms, the cousin would have felt indebted.

I can certainly see how many people would rather refuse a gift, than accept all of that (or accept a gift, but don't feel good about it, and potentially even dislike you for all of the above).

Easy solutions:

  1. Offer it saying that you won a sum of money and would like to share it: that relieves him of the burden of losing face since my father wouldn't be paying because he's "better off", but because he "won", he got lucky.
  2. Offer it saying that you're doing it because you're happy to do it and happy to have him along: if you stress that YOU are happy to make the gift, you take some burden off the receiver. You're doing it for yourself, too, so there's nothing to repay back.
    When you say you're happy to, it also changes the frame of your gift-giving: not showing off or seeking gratitude, but just doing it for the joy of sharing the experience.
    Importantly, it also compliments the receiver, because it says "I want you to come with me, I want your presence", which sub-communicates that he must be a great person if you want him along
Ali Scarlett, John Freeman and 2 other users have reacted to this post.
Ali ScarlettJohn FreemanKavalierMMC
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Great topic as this is something we encounter from now and then.

My experience with a friend who did not have much money at some point (the majority of my life, this was me BTW). When I used number 2, I felt like it was actually making him feel even more inferior. As I was completely ok to offer him and even happy to do so. It made him feel that I was even more superior and him even more inferior.

I did it genuinely and I think he heard the appreciation you're talking about. However, it did not make him more open to accept the drinks, etc. as the debt would still be there.

I'm thinking about a philosopher's frame:

Sometimes, someone want to invite someone we love. It's all about the friendship shared. This time it's my turn. Another one I'm sure it will be your turn.

This generalization makes it not about you or about him. But about the situation. It's exactly what you said in number 2, formulated differently. It also shows the confidence that he will get in a better situation without mentioning the current situation.

The first one is always an option though.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

That's a good one, John.

I also did something similar with storytelling.

For example, I'd share the true story of when I was on my ass, but a friend of mine invited me saying "I invite you, and I'm happy to", and that really touched me and I always remember it.
When you share that story, the sub-communication is exactly what you say, that it's about the friendship and the time together, and that it's about "taking turns in life", I got that nice gift before, now I'm giving back, tomorrow he will give it back.

John Freeman has reacted to this post.
John Freeman
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Boom!

Sharing the story is the confident, honest, vulnerable way of doing it. IF he’s willing to admit to himself and others he’s in a difficult situation at the moment.

However, this is the best opportunity for him to do so.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

Exactly, that's a great occasion to "come clean" through the power-protecting story, and own and admit that "financially it's not the best time" because the frame is "it's part of life, we all can go through it (I have too), and we can all grow out of it (and right now we can forget about that, and enjoy a drink together)".

John Freeman has reacted to this post.
John Freeman
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Yes, the frame is: it happens to all of us, me included, no reason to be ashamed.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

Very good content, I was looking for this content for a while, as I am networking some seniors in power in my industry and hand out gifts -- sometimes they accept the gifts, sometimes they don't. Here is what I am trying to do:

  1. Convey a teacher-student frame and say that I learnt a lot.
  2. Say something like "I am grateful that I had a chance to learn and, in return, would like express my gratitude with this little gift. I would appreciate if you are kind enough to accept my modest gratitude."

In your case, what I will do is to start with asking some advices from your father's cousin. Since he is older than you he could have some wisdom worth sharing. After sharing, say something like "I enjoy spend time with you and I wonder if you can do me a favor by spend more time with my family in XYZ trip".

Not sure if my approach actually works, though. There could be better alternatives.

Quote from MMC on June 22, 2022, 7:32 pm

In your case, what I will do is to start with asking some advices from your father's cousin. Since he is older than you he could have some wisdom worth sharing. After sharing, say something like "I enjoy spend time with you and I wonder if you can do me a favor by spend more time with my family in XYZ trip".

Not a good approach, MMC.

At a high level, things are situational.
But this is almost all-around poor because it breaks basic rules.

It feels super manipulative because the give and take are too close together, and way too obvious.
You do that to anyone who's not totally naive and power-blind, and they'll brand you as a low-quality manipulator (or say to f*ck off if they're more the asshole types). And they wouldn't be wrong.

It's also bad for the person you're supposedly trying to help, because now the frame is:

  • I've done you a favor asking for suggestions (not really, you just tried to manipulate them), now can you do a favor to my dad and spend time with him?

Think about the effects of that frame.

How disempowering is that for my father.
What is he, a leper that I need to go out and manipulate and pay people to spend time with him?

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
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