How to Apologize for a Missed Gift

Many of our customers at Gifts Done are just like us (shocker) and have missed gifts in the past. In fact, most of the feedback that we get from users is how they love not doing that anymore because we take care of them. If you are not using an automated gifting service, it is possible, maybe, that you will miss an important day for someone. It feels terrible, right!

People are all different, of course, and you may have friends and family who don’t care about their birthdays and anniversaries and what not. However, when you do forget for someone who is close to you, there can be hurt feelings. Both for them and you. There’s no need to beat yourself up about it - you can simply not go back into the past and change your actions. You can take control and recover. Here’s our 3 step plan - don’t be shocked at how simple it is.

1. Acknowledge that you made a mistake

This is more for you than anyone else. Start here. If you are not ready to talk to the person who you have hurt, start with you. “I have made a mistake”. Then, you start to own the process of recovery and you can address what has happened. Mistakes happen, so this step puts the missed gift into a category of things we know how to handle. At this point, you don’t want to make any promises to yourself or anyone else. You want to figure out the root cause. Here are possible mistakes that some people make that cause them to miss important days:

  • You did not know when or what the event was
  • You did not know that the person cared so much
  • You were aware of the upcoming event but you did not make a plan to do anything about it
  • You were aware of the upcoming event and you made a plan but you did not stick with it

All of these are possible - there may even be more. The point here is just to find out where the gap is that let you make a mistake. You can be really specific if you want or just think about it in general terms.

2. Determine a strategy for not repeating the mistake

Once you know why you missed this special day, it is much easier to figure out how to do something about it. Not all causes can have a clear plan of action, though. If you just didn’t know, it is fine, but not really actionable, to say, “I won’t let this happen again because I will pay more attention/ask more/know more in the future” Frankly, we just don’t know what we don’t know, and there is nothing that can be done about it.

From our experience - most missed gifts are caused by people just not being able to get to gifts because there are so many other competing priorities - people are trying to give 100% of themselves to work, family, hobbies, etc. When you have so many truly important things to do, it can be hard to remember much less prioritize shopping or sometimes even just saying “I am so happy for you on this day” - because the actual day slips our minds.

Your strategies may vary, but here are a few that we’ve used or heard others using:

  • Monthly planning Maintain a habit of actively searching for, listing, and taking action on important events every month - one of our users even suggested putting sticky notes by the door with each date - so you may have one that says “May 20 - Sally’s 40th birthday” that you stick up there on May 1 and have to walk past and look at every day. It sounds kind of genius, really.
  • Set up a reminder service There are plenty of reminder services where you can enter dates and get a phone call or text message to do something. One way to customize your reminders is through the If This Than That application - so you can get just the right kind of notification for you - you can even connect the reminder to your smart lights now, so maybe you want the lights to be purple when there is something you need to do. We don’t know what will work best for your situation.
  • Use a service like Gifts Done Obviously, we are a little biased here. Setting up all of your gift events with your own budget and notes just when it works for you, is the easiest way. You can even get an annual membership so that you can save money when you send more than 10 gifts per year. It is easy and you know that your gifts will come from and benefit small businesses.
  • Ask people to remind you It seems a little weird, but you can ask people to let you know when things that are important to them are coming up.

3. Genuinely apologize

You are empowered with understanding how you made a mistake and what you can do about it to avoid it next time - now it is time to apologize. We recommend doing this in person (if possible) and one on one. Apologies can feel hard at first, and you may be nervous. You can psych yourself up by thinking about how you feel when someone apologizes to you. You probably don’t bite, and they probably won’t either.

Always start with a simple, “I’m sorry” and never use the word “but”. Apologies are almost always of the formula: simple sorry + what I did + how I will do better next time. They do not include excuses or turn the attention back on the apologizer. This is important. If you made a mistake, even if the other person made one too, you can only own your own mistake. If Sally never told me that her birthday is May 20, and I miss it - well, I did not know that it was her birthday and the root cause of that could be that she did not tell me. I can still make her feel better by saying something like, “I am sorry that I missed your birthday. I did not know it was your birthday, and I have it in my calendar now, so we can celebrate next year!”. Now, everyone feels better. If Sally chooses to apologize to me for unreasonable expectations - that is a completely different matter than I have no control over.

Here’s wishing you never need apologize.


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