6 Christmas gift etiquettes

Dec 17, 2009 at 1:28 p.m. ET

So for Christmas your grandma gets you hot-pink sweatpants and your boyfriend gets you a set of kitchen knives (even though you haven't cooked since last month's microwave dinner). What's the proper gift etiquette? And is it ever appropriate to return them? Jonathan Alpert, New York-based psychotherapist, offers some tips on the proper Christmas gift etiquette.

Woman opening Christmas gift

Suspend initial reaction

If you receive a gift you don't like, do your best to suspend your initial reaction of 'what is this?' Repeat back the gift to the giver as a way to build a delay to your initial emotional response.

For example, 'A wreath made from straws... What an interesting concept,' Alpert says.

It's the thought that matters

Focus on the person's thoughtfulness rather than his or her choice in gift. Remember what your mom taught you: It's the thought that counts.

'Sometimes this holds truer than others -- this is one of those times,' Alpert says. 'So, you might say something like, 'It is really nice of you to think of me.' Or, 'I really appreciate you taking the time to get me a gift.''

Say something positive

Try to find something positive about the item.

If you receive a really ugly wool sweater, for example, Alpert suggests focusing on the warm part. Say something like, 'This sweater looks really warm and will come in handy this winter.'

Be brief

Be brief, say thank you and move on by directing a question at the gift giver. Dwelling on the gift will only encourage conversation about it, Alpert says.

A good response is something like, 'Thank you so much for thinking of me. How are your holiday plans coming along?'

Donate or exchange with caution

After some time has passed, feel free to exchange or donate the gift, or give it to someone who might appreciate it more than you do. Just make sure that person doesn't have contact with the original gift giver.

What if you're the gift giver?

Especially when it comes to clothing or extremely personal items, it's common for the receiver to not like the gift. If you have doubts that the person will like the gift you bought, provide a gift receipt. Let him or her know you weren't entirely sure about the color or fit so you have enclosed a gift receipt. This helps to eliminate that awkward moment for both people, Alpert says.

More Christmas gifts on SheKnows

Brainboosting Christmas gifts for the whole family
Top 25 Christmas gifts for her
Top 10 gift ideas