Have you ever someone who can light up a room with their mere presence?
You know, that kind of person who can step into a room and attract, charm, and influence everyone around them?
These people have that alluring and elusive quality called “charisma.”
And, even though you might think that’s something they’re born with, researchers have found that it’s actually a learnable skill.
The Charisma Myth
In her book, The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism (1), leadership expert Olivia Fox Cabane writes:
“Consciously or not, charismatic individuals choose specific behaviors that make other people feel a certain way. These behaviors can be learned and perfected by anyone. In fact, in controlled laboratory experiments, researchers were able to raise and lower people’s levels of charisma as if they were turning a dial. Contrary to commonly held charisma myths you don’t have to be naturally outgoing, you don’t have to be physically attractive, and you won’t have to change your personality. No matter where you’re starting from, you can significantly increase your personal charisma and reap the rewards both in business and in daily life.”
Contrary to common beliefs, charisma doesn’t require you to be physically attractive, extroverted, or have a certain type of personality.
All you need is a specific set of skills that, with enough practice, anyone can master. According to Fox Cabane, charisma depends on three core behaviors: presence, power, and warmth. Let’s have a closer look at them individually:
If you want to be charismatic, you have to be present with other people. Tuning out, thinking about other stuff, or glancing at your phone won’t cut it. Charismatic people are 100% present. Are you? If so, you’re probably way ahead of everyone else:
“The good news is that even a minor increase in your capacity for presence can have a major effect on those around you. Because so few of us are ever fully present, if you can manage even a few moments of full presence from time to time, you’ll make quite an impact.”
In a world full of distractions, you can set yourself apart and boost your charisma a LOT simply by offering others your full attention.
So, put your technology in silent mode, get it out of sight, and look other people in the eye. It will make a huge difference in how others perceive you.
Power is all about whether you are perceived as having the ability to affect the world:
“Being seen as powerful means being perceived as able to affect the world around us, whether through influence on or authority over others, large amounts of money, expertise, intelligence, sheer physical strength, or high social status. We look for clues of power in someone’s appearance, in others’ reaction to this person, and, most of all, in the person’s body language.”
The simplest and most effective way to tune up your power is to take charge of your body language. Fox Cabane suggests you do that by practicing visualization.
Close your eyes, relax, and vividly imagine an occasion where you felt especially triumphant. Hear the sounds in the room. See the people congratulating you. And let the feelings of pride, confidence, and enthusiasm fill your being.
Visualize a “power moment,” and your body language will follow.
Finally, the people around you need to feel that you’ll use your presence and power to their benefit:
“Warmth, simply put, is goodwill toward others. Warmth tells us whether or not people will want to use whatever power they have in our favor. Being seen as warm means being perceived as any of the following: benevolent, altruistic, caring, or willing to impact our world in a positive way.”
To express warmth, you need to show compassion and be a good listener. A lot of people think charisma is about being a great talker, but you can increase your personal magnetism even more by being a good listener.
People are used to being talked to, but it’s much rarer to be heard. So, let go of your need to be interesting, and instead be interested.
Let the conversation be about the other person. Put yourself in their shoes. Show genuine empathy and gratitude for what they share with you.
If you can make other people feel that you’re really TRULY listening, they’ll perceive you as highly charismatic. And you don’t have to say a word to convince them you are.
How to Be Charismatic, In Summary
Every interaction with other people is an opportunity to practice your personal magnetism. So, when you’re about to step into a social situation, remember “P.P.W.”:
1. Presence — Remove all possible distractions and look the other people in the eye.
2. Power — Visualize a triumphant situation and bring that body language to this situation.
3. Warmth — Let go of your need to be interesting, and instead be interested.
Practice these behaviors every chance you get and, before you know it, YOU will be the person lighting up the room. 🙂
- The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism by Olivia Fox Cabane
Hat tip to Brian Johnson for inspiring this article.