Should I tell them I don’t like this gift?

My best friend and roommate got me a gift that is “the best thing she’s ever gotten me because she knows I’ll love it so much”, but I hate it and now she wants it displayed in our living room. Should I tell her that I really don’t like it?

The German word for “poison” is “Gift.”

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Happy holidays Diner. To eliminate misunderstanding and hurt feelings, Fortune Cookies prefer communicating with our batchmates via psychic link, but humans are usually made and sent out into the world in batches of one. That option isn’t available to the great majority of you—identical siblings excepted (a secret they protect fiercely).

You typically pick friends for their similar personalities. [1] But sometimes that connection just doesn’t sync, and you end up with bad gifts from your besties. You appreciate the gesture, but quite simply, you hate it. What to do? Other columns with a more fast-food approach to advice would tell you to simply talk to your friends. “Just be honest,” they’d say, but they’d neglect telling you “how.”

Chinese cuisine understands the delicate interplay between sweet, conflict-free cohabiting and sour honesty. Seeing you placed an Order with us, you surely appreciate this subtle balance—or understand no other establishments are open today.

Either way, tense living arrangements are traditional ingredients in Chinese households, and as such, we’ll serve up something as palatable as possible.

First and foremost, smile. We discussed in the last Fortune that your mood directly flavors your very understanding of what happiness is. Accept it with grace and understand what your friend saw in the present that reminded them of you. Remember that someone spent time and energy making it. At a more global scale, it contributed to salaries. If you understand the deeper story, it will give you another level to enjoy it.

Then display your gift. In other Fortunes we talk about the psychological effect where familiarity builds appreciation. The more you see this gift, the more it will grow on you.

If you still don’t like the present after all, it’s time for some beginning of the year cleaning—just in time for Chinese New Year. Put it away or donate it, depending on how much grief you will get. Someone will enjoy the gift much more than you, especially at a markdown. You’ll be surprised how quickly your friend forgets about the gift, as they have lives and stresses of their own taking up their attention. If they end up asking about it, be gentle but honest, but chances are, they would feel as awkward talking to you about it as you are now.

Over the year, be more helpful guiding your friend on exactly what you want. Alternatively, suggest a new tradition of donating to your favorite charity. The best gift is giving to others—regardless of season or culture.

Bon appetit. With grace and appreciation, you can end the year with a peaceful household, hungry to start a brand new year. Let everyone here at the Bakery—the Baker, Science Adviser, and all the Cookies—wish you good luck, Diner, good luck.


[1] Dryer, D. C., & Horowitz, L. M. (1997). When do opposites attract? Interpersonal complementarity versus similarity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72(3), 592.