From October to December, malls across the country are filled with Santa Claus look-alikes who sit in a big chair and let children share their deepest wishes. Each talks to as many as 30,000 kids, engaging each in a short conversation that ends with a candy cane and a wink.
While Santa does have a captive audience, he's an expert when it comes to building relationships. Here are four lessons you can learn from the jolly ol' elf:
1. Listen without judgment. A six-year-old boy from Michigan told Santa he was worried that he was on the naughty list; he often acts out in school because he has autism. The boy's hands were flapping, and Santa took them in his hands and started rubbing them. Santa asked the boy if having autism bothered him, and the boy said it sometimes does. Then Santa calmly said, "It's OK to just be yourself."
"My child is a great advocate for himself. But this day was different. He opened up to this person about who he was and he was accepted. He wasn't a science experiment, like he gets treated when most people find out he autistic. He was Landon, sitting with Santa and being told that it was ok to be himself," the boys mother, Naomi Johnson, posted on social media with a photo.
2. Talk to people in a way they receive information best. A little girl from England sat on Santa's, and when he learned she had a hearing impairment, he started speaking to her in sign language. It was the girl's first visit to Santa, and her mom wasn't sure how it might turn out.
"It was incredible," shopping center manager Graeme Skillen told TODAY. "As soon as it happened, the whole area just went silent. Everyone was just spellbound by it. People were crying in the crowd. Members of our security staff were almost crying. It was just an amazing moment.
"The little girl herself was over the moon. Her face lit up as she got off the stage," he said. "It was really one of those special Christmas moments that captured everyone's imagination."
3. Be patient. A baby in Indiana fell asleep while waiting to meet Santa, so Santa posed for pictures taking a "nap" with him.
"I can't believe how adorable our son's pictures with Santa came out. After falling asleep in line waiting, Santa asked us not to wake him and the outcome was the cutest thing I've ever seen," the boy's father, Donnie Walters posted online along with a photo.
4. Be a connector. A Santa in Missouri helped a soldier give his 3-year-old daughter her Christmas. When the little girl asked Santa if he could bring her dad back from Afghanistan after being away for nine months, she was so surprised when Santa made it happen right then and there. Her father, Army Staff Sergeant Josh Pholman, came out from behind the scenes to hug and hold his daughter.