The Best Gift Is A Shared Experience

4 min readDec 10, 2022

The season of the gift exchange is upon us. We search for the ideal present to light someone up. We stock Amazon wish lists, stuff stockings, and celebrate eight miraculous nights of Hannukah. Some interesting research shows that the intangible gifts involving shared experiences are not only increasingly popular, but actually foster stronger relationship ties than material gifts. When both giver and receiver are engaged in positive, shared adventure, the gift has the potential to deepen the social bond and generate lasting memories.

One study identified the “4 S’s” of experience-giving:

  1. Surprise- the experience reveals something unexpected and new;
  2. Suspense-there is uncertainty and elements of the unknown involved;
  3. Sacrifice-the giver offers their own time and engagement as well as paying for the experience;
  4. Sharing- the giver is fully engaged in the experience with the receiver;

Interestingly these 4 elements are part of almost any experience in the category of “fun” — and fun is something we all need to have as much as possible in this crazy world. Comedy — and especially improv comedy which has creativity and all these other elements baked into it — is generated by:

Surprise — the story, characters, or game have a twist on rational reality we do not see coming;

Suspense — it is interesting, engaging and has a degree of tension;

Sacrifice — all comedy does not require sacrifice, but in improv comedy there is often a need to surrender control, let go of an idea we had if our fellow players go another way, and sacrifice any desire to “win” the scene;

Sharing- improv is interactive, the comedy is driven by give and take among 2 or more players or the players and an audience, and all these contributions are gifts everyone give to each other to generate something completely original.

An article titled “The Rules Of Improv Can Make You Funnier — They Can Also Make You More Confident” published by National Public Radio includes some research showing the lasting stress-reducing impact of these creative experience,


LCSW, CGP, CPAI, writer/performer, storyteller, storytelling coach. Improviser on team AURA at Magnet Theater in NYC. Storytelling coach for individuals & orgs