Last week I talked about how I hate presents. They don’t give me joy, they give me the sweats. I freak out that I haven’t reacted well enough (yippee thank you so much!), that I have to find a place in my house for this thing someone got me just in case the next time they come over they ask me about it. There are so many reasons I simply don’t like having “things” sitting around (besides having to clean the extra stuff).

But what I’ve realized recently is that people deserve to get what they want, not what I want. This goes both ways. If you know me well enough (and if you read my “I hate presents” post) then you’ll know I love experiences. But that may not be what you love.

The best analogy I have for this comes from my relationship with my husband. A lot of people can probably relate to the fact that one of us wants to cuddle and the other wants to rough house. Or one of us wants to go get burgers for dinner while the other wants a salad. This is a common occurrence in relationships because you have to accommodate two people. The selfless part of that relationship requires knowing (or asking) what the other person wants and giving them that. A lot of miscommunication happens because you either didn’t say what you wanted, or you just did what you wanted and expected the other person to notice and reciprocate. Most of it comes down to communication.

This works with people you are not romantically involved with. It also applies to birthdays and other gifts. I don’t like gifts. So I started giving experiences to my family. I made videos for them; I created scavenger hunts in cities; I planned trips for them. But it’s very possible that’s not what they really wanted.

I can ask them what they want straight out, or I can listen and pay attention. A lot of the time people will reveal their desires without even noticing. The trick is to be selfless enough to hear it and provide.

Giving isn’t about what you want or like. It’s about the other person. So do for them, or get for them, what they want.