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How do I navigate returning a gift without hurting my friend’s feelings?

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Receiving a gift can fill you with a rush of emotions, from excitement and anticipation to appreciation. Most of the time, the gift is something you’ve wanted and are thrilled to get. However, it might also put you in an awkward situation if your friend gives you a gift you don’t want or even like. Now, you’re faced with how to navigate returning a gift without hurting your friend’s feelings. What if they ask about the gift at a later time?

Start by thanking them

Before you say anything, genuinely thank them for their gift. Recognize their thought and the effort they put into it. You want them to know you appreciate them and are grateful, but the gift isn’t quite right for you.

Be honest

It can be tempting to sure and soften the blow or sugarcoat things by telling a white lie. Don’t do this, as it will only complicate the issue. The other person needs to know why the gift isn’t right so they don’t repeat the mistake with a future gift. Try to include something positive you like about the gift while explaining why it won’t work. Remind them how appreciative you are that they went out of their way to give you a gift.

Consider the relationship

How you handle returning the gift and speaking with the gifter will depend on your relationship with them. The closer you are, the more honest and upfront you can be with them. You know your friend, so approach the topic in a way that they will receive the best.

If you aren’t close or you’re worried they may take it the wrong way, it might be best to simply thank them and move on.

Consider the gift

You may not need to return the gift to the gifter at all. Check for a gift receipt. This signals that the gift giver knew you might not like the gift. They included the receipt so you could easily exchange it for a different size, color, or style. You could let the gifter know, but wait until you have the exchanged item.

Consider the time

If you decide to speak with the gifter, do it sooner rather than later. The more time that goes by, the harder the conversation will be. It doesn’t have to be in the moment of receiving the gift if you are in a group. Wait until you are in a quiet place to speak with the gifter privately.

If you don’t want to speak with your friend about the gift, consider waiting before passing the gift along. They may want/expect to see you wear/use the gift. You could do this a few times over the following weeks. Then, when they have moved on, you can quietly pass the gift to someone who would appreciate it more.

Artfully navigate returning a gift

Even the best of friends don’t get the perfect gift every time. Honesty is the best policy when you have a close and open relationship with your friend. Show gratitude for their gesture and then explain the gift isn’t a good fit.

Consider making a free friends wish list sharing group on You can create and view each other’s wish list at any time. That way, everyone can give a gift that is wanted or needed for any occasion. It just might be a subtle way to avoid tough gifting moments down the road!

Happy gifting!

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