Return to site

How to Properly Give Gifts with John Ruhlin

By Arel Moodie

Perhaps you've heard about the power of reciprocity and the power of giving gifts.  Sure, you it feels good to give gifts, and people are certainly open to helping you out when you help them out.  In this interview with John Ruhlin of Ruhlin Group, we delve deeper into the meaning and tradition behind giving a gift-how important it is for your business relationships, and how you can become a better gift giver as well!

Quick Rundown:

2:30: How John got into the referral world-when he interviewed with a guy who could sell to anyone.

14:00: Corporations are going to hate us, but here's our take on gift-giving on the holidays: don't do it!

16:00: When is a 30$ gift better than a 90$ one?  They're not even personalized necessarily.  This is key.

34:00: Everyone's looking to tell a story.

40:25: How John got through to a difficult client with a very personalized gift.

51:30: Should you ask for a referral when you give your gift?  Don't!

Click here to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes!

The Royal History of Gift Giving

John notes that in older times it used to be a tradition for kings to bestow gifts to other kings.  From western European monarchs to the emperors of ancient China, these powerful men understood the significance of their royal relationships.  It still goes on today, where an athlete from Sierra Leone presents the Queen of England with a gift:

broken image

While gift-giving can tap into an abundance mentality and demonstrate that you are a person of plentiful resources (otherwise, why would have any left to spare?), the alternative sub-communication gift-giving demonstrates is the value that you put on this relationship.  So there's a long history, and an art to giving gifts properly.

And people can feel, or subconsciously understand the value that you put on the relationship.  Case in point: if you just gave somebody an important referral, and all they sent you was a 5$ gift card for coffee, how would you feel?

broken image

Sure, you'll say "thank you very much."  But it seems like you put more work into the relationship than they did, and you got a cursory 5$ gift card.  Disclaimer: It's not about the 5$. It's about the sentiment that they don't value their relationship enough with you to treat you right.

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  -Maya Angelou

Whenever John gives a gift, he hopes to leave an impression on his recipients that he was very thoughtful in giving them a gift.  How then can you master the skill of gift giving like John?  Let's talk.

What Kind of Gifts to Give?

In what case is a 30$ gift better than a 90$ one?  When you gift wisely, it is: we're talking about the difference between a high-end water bottle compared with a run-of-the-mill watch.

If you have the money, would you still necessarily spend the money to get this water bottle?  A thirty or forty dollar water bottle?  Maybe you'd prefer to spend it on a nice date, or on your hobby instead-you may not necessarily need something like a fancy water bottle to bring to your intense gym workouts.

But if someone else got that piece of swag for you as a gift?  Now that's something different.  Compare that to an average watch.  That might be regifted or donated if it's not a special kind of watch.  That's not to say no one wants a 90$ watch, but you can potentially get more mileage out of a very nice common item rather than a stereotypical gift.

John also personalizes gifts he sends, sending personalized cutlery with his recipients' names engraved on the blades.  Sure, you could send any item as a gift, but finding a way to personalize your gifts can truly open doors and relationships.  Now the gift isn't a generic piece of advertising for Bose headphones or Apple, but it has a personalized component to it.

The Timing of Your Gifts

John also pays particular attention to the timing of his gifts.  He notes that a popular time to give gifts is during the holidays; should you give gifts during the holidays?

broken image

John says no!  Save the gift-giving for your families.  There's so much noise around the holidays and it's hard to stand out.

Surprise people instead and gift them during the non-holidays.

Thanks to John for coming on to the Art of Likability.  Likability fam, you can find him on his personal website at or his company page at  If you're more on the Twitter scene, you can find him at @Ruhlin.

You could have rewatched a sitcom that you've seen 7 times already, but you chose to come here instead to improve your understanding of gift giving and relationships!  Put it to use, because implementation is what will get you closer to your relationship goals.

Questions and comments can be directed via email to [email protected]

Subscribe to the Art of Likability below:

PS- We recently came out with a brand new manual we guarantee will help you land your next job interview. Find out more about it at right now. Let us know how we can help by emailing us at [email protected].