Christmas gifts!

“I hate Christmas!” a man once told me. “It’s so materialistic.”

I was thinking about him yesterday when I was out browsing in gift shops, looking at all of the materials. I was taking it easy, hoping something would jump out at me as being just right for someone on my Christmas list. And then something did. It was a painting of an old fashioned farm, and it reminded me of my ESFJ friend, who loves traditional decorating, and has a nostalgic bent. I thought of her fondly as I looked at the painting, not the part of her that can be annoying, but the part of her that has found the piece of this vast universe that she most loves, and in her joy, spreads it to others when they visit her lovely home. 

Then it hit me. Christmas is anything but materialistic. Every time I go to buy a gift for someone, I have to think about them. I think of their personalities, like “romantic”, “nostalgic,” “funny” or “classy.” I think of their interests, like baking, gardening or reading spy thrillers. I think of their loves, like bluegrass music, bulldogs, or the color green. Looking for Christmas gifts forces me to remember the joy that people get out of life, and that they share with me. They force me to find a material way to say thank you.

Since shopping for Christmas gifts makes us think about people’s personalities, it seems like a good time to think about type as well. Back in 1988, I wrote an issue of The Type Reporter called “Christmas Gifts!!!” I asked people what kind of gifts they most appreciated, then I organized their responses by the four temperaments. If you’re stuck on what to get someone, this might help.

In interviewing SPs, I found that they prefer gifts that they will use during their leisure time, gifts for playing and fun, like camping gear or a tennis racket. They also like gifts that are a treat for the senses, that help them look and feel physically good, like a gift certificate to a spa or a salon. An ISTP woman said a massage would “touch her soul.” An ESTP man wanted a reclining chair that had rollers for your back and vibrators for your legs and a pocket to keep magazines in.

I just saw a commercial for a gift that looked like it might appeal to SPs. It’s the Zumba Fitness 2 video game, where you exercise and have fun at the same time. It has lots of choices in dance routines and levels of effort, and SPs like choices. Also, you can pause it and come back any time, so you don’t have to make a commitment. That’s another plus for SPs, who like to follow their impulses.  

In interviewing SJs, I found that they liked gifts that help them carry out their responsibilities better, in less time and with more comfort. They like to get something they need, but of a little better quality than they would purchase for themselves. Don’t be too extravagant though, SJs have a keen sense of too much and do not appreciate it. For example, one ESTJ woman said that if she needed a new watch, she would buy herself a Timex. The perfect gift would be a Seiko because it’s a little nicer than what she would get for herself, but a Rolex would be too much. Another man mentioned a briefcase that he’d get a lot of use out of, but that he wouldn’t want to plunk money down for.

I’m getting my ISFJ daughter a moderately priced designer purse because she’ll use it every day, but she would never buy it for herself.

In interviewing NFs, I found that they are a cinch to buy for, because they are likely to be grateful for any gift you give them. It’s the fact that you were thinking about them that means the most to them. If you want to really hit the mark, however, you can give them something that reminds them of your relationship and what they mean to you, like a framed picture of the two of you together, or a plaque with a meaningful quote on it.

I’m an NF, and when I see ads for those digital photo books, I think how much I’d love one of those with pictures from vacations with my husband, or pictures of all of the Christmases with our friends.

The NTs are probably the hardest to buy for because they love ideas, not things. An e-reading device like the iPad might be a good gift for them because it can facilitate a connection with new ideas; a gift certificate to a bookstore or might work well, too.

My ENTP husband also recommended a well-written book that came out this year. It’s called The Information by James Gleick. It’s the story of information technologies that have changed the nature of human consciousness, from African drums to the Internet. Gleick talks about “technologies,” drawing a very big picture and making a lot of connections. What more can an NT ask for?

So have fun this Christmas thinking about all of the people in your life and what brings them joy, and how they share that joy with you. 


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  1. Karen

    #1 by Karen - December 8, 2011 at 9:58 PM

    I had to chuckle at this. I have "NT" preferences and my hubby and I are thinking of getting each other an iPad (shared) and I asked my mom for an Amazon gift certificate!
  2. JeniRae

    #2 by JeniRae - December 9, 2011 at 1:46 PM

    "The NTs are probably the hardest to buy for because they love ideas, not things."

    Absolutely true. I will admit that I am difficult to buy for.
    My parents asked me what I wanted for the holidays, and I suggested a Gift Card to any place where I can purchase "techie-toys!" (Like Best Buy or is a treasure-trove of NT-gift ideas.
    Seriously. Check it out.
  3. Ken Smith

    #3 by Ken Smith - December 10, 2011 at 1:35 PM


    Thank you so much for this piece. As an INTJ, I have to confess I find Christmas to be almost unendurable...It seems impossible to escape this annual assault on my senses and sensibilities everywhere I turn for two months out of the year.

    That said, your article reminds me that I'm obsessing about the parts I hate and overlooking opportunities to make it meaningful and fun. I have three little grandsons (2, 4 and 6) and a wife who loves Christmas, so this year I'm going to keep re-reading your article and focusing on how I can "...remember the joy that people get out of life, and that they share with me...find a material way to say thank you."

    And to clamp my jaw shut when I feel an INTJ rant coming on. Thank you for sharing your insights.
  4. Courtney

    #4 by Courtney - December 15, 2011 at 11:12 AM

    How interesting that three NTs have responded! I'll be the fourth. I'm an INTJ female and we have it especially hard. @Ken Smith hit the nail on the head with his description of the "annual assault on my senses." The holidays make me want to hibernate.
  5. Annie Talvé

    #5 by Annie Talvé - March 8, 2012 at 4:13 PM

    I'm reading "The Information" right now. It's a fabulous book, and beautifully written. And, guess what? It was recommended to me by an ENTP!
  6. Adi Das

    #6 by Adi Das - February 28, 2013 at 6:34 AM

    OK, NTs are roused (hey, a chance for a formula!:-); being an INTP pretending as ENFJ - yes, a book! Better still, a collection of electronic books (drm-free files), sorted in categories! Or a storage device (a big hard-drive, latest huge capacity usb-stick etc)
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