Asking for a Friend: Help! How do I tell my friend that I don’t like her gift – without hurting her feelings?

  • This week, we answer questions about communicating our likes and dislikes with a friend, and how to get out of a creative block
  • If you have difficult or awkward questions to ask about teen life, email us, and ‘Friend of a Friend’ will do their best to give advice (we’ll make sure you remain anonymous)
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It's normal to get a gift you don't like, but how would you tell that to your friend without hurting their feelings?

This column is here to answer all your difficult or embarrassing questions about being a teenager. If you’ve ever wanted to know how to overcome difficult situations at home, at school, in your social lives, or even in the animal kingdom, our “Friend of a Friend” is an expert to help provide answers for you!

I’m sad about graduating, especially leaving my crush behind

Thanks ... I guess

Hi Friend,

A friend sent me a gift that I’m not a fan of, and she asked me what I think of it. I don’t know how to respond because I didn’t like the gift, and truthfully, I wouldn’t want anything like that again in the future.

How can I respond to her without hurting her feelings?

Not a Fan

Dear Not a Fan,

It isn’t easy to think of the perfect gift to give someone, or to tell someone you don’t like what they’ve given you. This situation is tricky, but it sounds like you care about how your words affect your friend – and that is a good thing.

It is common for empathetic people to feel hesitant to express their thoughts, especially when they hold an opposing opinion. Saying something negative can feel impolite or even offensive. However, that is not entirely true.

Expressing opinions aggressively can hurt someone’s feelings, but expressing it assertively is actually important. When you are assertive, you express your thoughts and opinions honestly and openly, while at the same time respecting others’ needs and feelings.

What to do when you’re jealous of a friend

You should be able to explain your opinions, without feeling like you’re attacking the other person. Keep in mind that since this person is a friend, she’ll want to know your likes and dislikes, and would probably feel more hurt if you kept lying to her about her gifts.

So as you approach her, remember that being assertive and communicating clearly with your friend is a crucial part of building a healthy relationship.

Here is a general guide you can follow for your conversation, but feel free to choose the steps that work best for you:

  1. Start by thanking your friend for her act of kindness, and ask about her intentions behind the gift. Listening to your friend’s explanation could also tell you what gifts you could give her in the future. To open up the discussion, you could say, “You are so thoughtful. What made you think of me?”
  2. Once you understand more about your friend’s decision, you can take this opportunity to express your thoughts in an honest and respectful manner.
  3. Give constructive feedback, and don’t just focus on disapproving comments. Tell your friend what you enjoy in a gift. Do you prefer practical presents or decorative ones? Are there specific brands or cartoon characters you really like? Are there items you’d never buy for yourself, but would enjoy as a gift from others? Or maybe you dislike gifts entirely and would prefer to spend quality time with your friend instead.

Remember, friendships aren’t solely built on shared similarities, but also on differences. Whatever your preferences are, just make sure you communicate them.

Best of luck, Friend of a Friend

She was hoping for a puppy, but she got socks.

Tips for getting over creative blocks

Hi Friend,

I love art, as it’s an important source of relaxation for me. But recently, I’ve been experiencing a major creative block, and can’t think of anything to draw. For the past three years, I’ve been practising, improving and exploring my artistic style, but now I don’t know what to do next. I want to expand my skill set – I’ve been watching YouTube tutorials for advice, but I get frustrated with them quickly.

How can I get over this block?

Chip Off the Old Block

My friend is obsessed with Instagram, and it’s making the both of us insecure

Hi Chip,

Creative blocks are a common challenge for many artists, even the most famous ones. And after working on your art for three years, it makes sense that you’d have difficulty thinking of new content.

Take a step back, and reflect on what art means to you. As you mentioned, art is a way for you to relieve stress. For many people, art enables us to express our inner feelings and thoughts, and it can take our minds off stressful situations.

If art has been causing frustration for you, maybe focus on enjoying the creative process, rather than on the progress of your skills – at least for a short time, until you feel ready to return to those YouTube tutorials. Releasing yourself from the pressure of constant improvement might help your creativity to blossom again.

Feeling burned out? It’s time to change up your routine

You could try looking for inspiration in a new environment. Whether you go for a scenic hike, visit a new neighbourhood, or go to an art museum, changing your setting can provide the new ideas you need.

Something else that could help with your creative block is making art with other people. Being inspired by other artists can reawaken your own passion. You could also try teaching art to younger kids, shifting the focus from your own progress to helping someone else learn.

Be patient with yourself and your art. With time and maybe some exploration, this creative block should pass.

Hope this helps, Friend of a Friend

This question was answered by clinical psychologists from the Department of Health under their “Shall We Talk” initiative, jointly organised with the Advisory Committee on Mental Health.

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