Two years ago on my birthday, I took my kids the the park to meet a friend for a picnic. The day was glorious: bright sunshine, blue skies, flowers around the park in full color. While I sat near the sand pit watching them dig tunnels and build castles, my cell phone rang.
At that point, I had been working for the university for about four months doing various freelance projects in collaboration with the marketing department. I had been writing the blog for about two months. I had not yet been on site with the team.
Hundreds of miles away, my colleagues gathered to celebrate the birthday of a another team member. As they devoured a cake-sized glazed donut, they dialed the speaker phone and reached me: in the park, in the sunshine, where the giggles and squeals of my daughters mixed with the laughter and conversation on the phone.
They sang happy birthday to me.
The call lasted only a few minutes. I said goodbye and returned to pushing swings, chasing my toddler, and dodging the spray from the sprinkler park.
I don’t remember what else I did that day, what I ate for dinner, or what else we did to celebrate. That phone call is the singular powerful memory I have of my 38th birthday.
Sometimes, we have no idea how much impact a (seemingly small) action might have in the lives of our friends, family, or co-workers. The remembrance of a birthday, an unexpected card, a phone call: all these have the power to profoundly affect a person’s life.
Tell me something! Share a story of how someone’s small kindness has influenced your life. What can you do today to bring unexpected joy to someone’s life?
You might also enjoy this birthday related post, Happy Birthday to Me!
I am the founder/CEO of the Weaving Influence team, the author of Reach: Creating the Biggest Possible Audience for Your Message, Book, or Cause, and the host of the Book Marketing Action Podcast. I’m a wife and mom of three kids, and I enjoy running, reading, writing, coffee, and dark chocolate.
Well Happy Happy Birthday Becky!!!!! Paul
I agree, Gregg. Thank you for sharing your insights.
We all want and need to feel connected to others. Leaders who are good at connecting build strong relationships. Getting to know people, and then remembering what’s important to them, is the beginning of good relationships.
Building relationships is one everyday way I’ve found to make a difference.
Re: Voicemail, I am guilty of that, for sure. I think part of that is knowing how the people you are leading like to communicate. I try to match my medium to the medium my friends or coworkers enjoy most. For some, a DM on Twitter is the best way to communicate. Other friends prefer a text. The reason that birthday was so powerful for me is that I love the chance to actually talk to people, if not face to face, then on the phone.
What is your favorite way to communicate, Gregg?
By far, an in-person discussion. Communication channels are nice, but should never subvert relationship.
This is true as well in business. I work in PR, and I speak with a lot of editors, as well as clients and other industry VIPs, and I always do my best to remember something about them – something that interests them, like sports, or perhaps their kids or hobbies.
People respond to that, but I think it’s because they need to feel connected – which is what we tend to miss in this day of instant communication. That “margin” we have in our lives for those connections is being snuffed out. Need proof? How many people do you know who never return a voicemail, but will return a text within minutes of you sending them one?
Hi Becky. Let me just say a late happy birthday to start. It is rather difficult for me to pin point one person’s small kindness that made a big difference in my life, but there are many. My little six year old can walk into the room and give me the tightest hug without saying a word, and it really makes me feel loved and appreciated.
The good news? There are so many, that it would be lengthy for me to list here.
The sad news? It doesn’t happen often enough EVERY DAY… with intention. My aim is to provide unique, uplifting feedback everyday at least once. I am lucky to hit this mark day after day… intentionally. Hoping that a ripple effect is created (Kudos to Cami for spreading this message as well)!
I agree with the other people who left comments that people yearn to feel connected in this ever increasing world that focuses on the “TO DO” list instead of on the people around us.
The one thing that people can do EVERYDAY is to let at least one person know how exceptional their was and why. I call this Exposing Exceptional Performance… you’d be amazed at how easy it is to “bring unexpected joy to someone’s life”!
A simple example: In Nov, and for no special occasion, my kids brought red roses to their teachers to thank them for their hard work in educating them. There were tears! It was wonderful to bring joy!
Sonia, well said. The decision to intentionally provide positive feedback on a daily basis is an admirable one. I also love the idea of providing encouragement when it is unexpected. I imagine the reason the teachers had tears of joy is that (sadly) it is so unusual for them to feel appreciated.
I am curious: do you think it is easier to provide positive feedback at work or at home? It seems that many of us may have the skill to provide encouraging feedback but only fully use it in one setting or the other.
Sonia, thanks for adding more value to my post with your thoughtful comment.
A personal touch ALWAYS matters. Your personal touch on your blog is why I keep coming.back. and why I love engaging with you friend.
Hope your birthday was amazing…just like you!