Who is the most charismatic person you know? Chances are it’s a celebrity because we associate charisma with the rich and famous – those stellar creatures with shiny hair who live charmed lives in splendid mansions with fluffy dogs. They captivate us with their beauty, melt us with their charm and illuminate a room with the glitz of a supernova.
Charismatic people have a remarkable ability to make us feel fabulous. In conversation with them we feel valued and listened to and find ourselves the most interesting person in the world – at least for as long as they’re talking with us.
People who’ve met J K Rowling say she’s charismatic. Surely such sparkle is innate, you say, conferred at conception by a charisma gene or the largesse of a capricious god. More likely, her appeal is a skillful blend of body language and a healthy internal world that, according to charisma coach Olivia Fox Cabane, we can all develop.
Charisma is more science than magic, it seems, and JK left all the wizardry to Hogwarts.
Olivia Cabane narrows charisma down to three core elements:
- Power: Our ability to influence the world and help others
- Warmth: Our degree of care, concern and goodwill towards others, and
- Presence: Are we really listening? People know instantly if we’ve drifted off by the tiniest delay in our response time.
Cabane emphasizes the need for these core elements to be supported by a healthy mental state whereby we effectively manage our thoughts and emotions. Her wonderful book The Charisma Myth outlines how to develop a healthy internal world. You may like to check it out.
In the meantime, here are a few of her instant charisma boosts:
- Pause for two full seconds before you speak. This gives your reply gravitas and shows you’re taking in what the other person says.
- Focus on your breath while someone speaks – you will stay focused and they will instantly sense your engagement.
- No fidgeting while someone is speaking with you – an instant charisma fail.
- Reduce how quickly and how often you nod
I’ve been experimenting with these charisma boosts and there’s been a shift. At first, it felt awkward and stilted, especially waiting a little before responding. However, pausing for a full two seconds – strange at first – allows a more considered response and permits space between their words and mine. Also, my carnival clown nodding is less frequent and slower. This simple body language change has added more focus to my interactions – literally – as all that head nodding encourages a subtle physical discomfort as well as causing the other person’s face to bob up and down in my line of vision. Returning to my breath while listening to people speak has also been useful as it brings my mind right back to the person before me.
Working on your own charisma is revealing and fun as well as adding to your inspirational and persuasive capacity. Additionally, it will leave you a better person – you will listen more effectively, find people more interesting and increase your capacity to contribute fearlessly to the world.
Try experimenting with Cabane’s instant charisma boosts for a few days and see what happens.
I’m having what you’re having, JK.