A Special Day Indeed

One thing I love about teaching ethical influence and persuasion is the wide range of application of the principles of influence. Understanding what triggers a “Yes!” response, then tailoring your communication can make life much easier and lead to more success. This applies to business as well as your personal life.

This week’s post is primarily for parents. I want to share an idea to help you raise your kids, or possibly grand kids. I truly believe if your child knows you love them unconditionally, that you have their best interests at heart, that they are special in your eyes, it will be easier to persuade them to do what you want them to do — what they need to do. That would include the monotonous things like eating healthy, studying hard, being kind and giving, and having good manners, among other things.

How do you convey this sense of being special? There are lots of thing you can do but I’m going to share one thing you may not have thought of — a “Special Day.” I don’t remember how I came up with this idea but right around the time our daughter Abigail was born I told my wife Jane that I’d like to have a “Special Day” for Abigail each year. After all, moms get Mother’s Day and dads get Father’s Day but kids don’t have their special day of recognition.

Here’s what we decided to do. Each year we pick a random day and I take the day off from work. We buy Abigail presents and surprise her early in the morning when we burst into her room and say, “It’s Special Day!” We give her breakfast in bed then let her open the gifts. The rest of the day revolves around her and whatever she enjoys. When she was very young it was simple things like McDonald’s for lunch and a Disney movie. Some years it’s been going to the Ohio State Fair, horseback riding, dinner at her favorite restaurant or more recently, because she’s a teenager, it’s time at the mall with lunch at one of her favorite spots.
I hope you see it doesn’t have to be lavish. The gifts aren’t many or expensive and the restaurants aren’t fancy, but that doesn’t matter because what she knows is the day is all about her. We’ve told her many times, it’s not because it’s her birthday, or Christmas or some other holiday, it’s just because we love her.

While it usually takes place in the summer because there are more things to do and Abigail is off school, the fact that it’s randomly chosen makes it a surprise and adds to the element of fun and excitement. She once remarked she enjoys her Special Day as much as her birthday and Christmas. Now that’s a good return for the effort!

One other benefit I see for your child by having a Special Day is self-esteem. Kids need to have a sense of their own identity apart from their peers. This is especially important as they become teenagers and feel pressure to conform. Something unique like a Special Day can be one way to help them see how they’re different and it can really make them feel special — loved. I don’t think Abigail has any friends who have something similar and I know it makes her feel special.

I’m taking a quick break from Carnegie and writing this in a column on influence for a couple of reasons:

  • We just did her Special Day last week and it’s fresh on my mind (see photos at the top). For me the best part was simply the hug and thank you at the end of the night.
  • I’ve always gotten very positive feedback from people when I’ve shared this idea so here’s a chance to share it with more people. I encourage you to think about doing something similar for your kids.
So maybe you’re reading this and you don’t have kids and you’re wondering if there’s any application for you? Yes! Just pick someone you love and try it. If you’re a business owner or boss, try it with your employees. I’ll leave it to you to come up with the creative ways to celebrate but if you want to let someone know how much they mean to you, that they are special, this is a great way to do it. And the side benefits; they’ll be much more apt to like you, want to help you and they won’t want to disappoint you. All those as will make it much easier to persuade them when the need arises.

If you have some creative thoughts on how to make people feel special leave a comment below.
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”
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