In her essay on the social and emotional significance of the gift, Lee Anne Fennell suggests that gifts are set apart from ordinary commodities because they are specifically chosen for someone else as part of a process of sustaining and deepening personal relationships. In terms similar to those I discussed in Chapter 4, she uses the phrase 'empathetic dialogue' to describe the most positive aspect of gift-giving in which both donor and recipient gain emotional pleasure. A successful gift, she argues, involves the donor putting herself in the recipient's place and imagining not only what they would like, but also what they would like to receive from this particular person. In turn, the recipient imagines the donor's 'empathetic efforts' to find the right gift, and it acquires sentimental value that has little to do with its market value. Fennell suggests that this form of empathetic dialogue is based on desire:

The desire to identify with another; the desire to have one's true preferences divined by another (even when those preferences may not even be clear to oneself); the desire to surprise and to be surprised.

Giving gifts, she concludes, is part of a 'specialized communication' through which donors are able to express feelings that may not be easily put into words.

from 'Applied Drama: The Gift of Theatre', by Helen Nicholson, p. 164

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