Imagine being able to walk into a room of complete strangers, work the room, then leave with a crowd of adoring fans? That’s what charismatic people do. They light up a room.
Charismatic people are magnetic, we love being around them, they wield unfair influence, don’t they? Learning how to develop charismatic personality will help you become a people magnet, and effortlessly influence people around you. Charisma gets people to like you, trust you and want to do business with you – essential foundations of successful selling.
Harvard researcher Olivia Fox Cabane studied charisma, wading through tonnes of research by sociologists, psychologists, neuroscientists, cognitive and behavioural scientists. She looked at clinical experiments, cross-sectional and longitudinal surveys, covering subjects like presidents, military leaders, students, business executives and managers, and put it all in an insightful book: The Charisma Myth: Master the Art of Personal Magnetism
Myths of charisma
We typically associate charismatic people with being outgoing and boisterous. However Cabane uncovered studies showing you can be a very charismatic introvert. Also, charisma is commonly associated with physical attractiveness, but Churchill — one of history’s most influential leaders — umm… well you know where I’m going with this.. 😉
So even if you think you fell out the ugly tree (which I’m certain is untrue), or are having a really bad hair day, don’t worry, you can still be charismatic.
The good news is, you can be charismatic without needing a personality transplant – according to Cabane’s research, charismatic people adopt behaviours make other people feel a certain way.
“Contrary to popular belief, people are simply not born charismatic […]. Charisma is the result of specific nonverbal behaviours, not an inherent magical personal quality”.
Whether someone is charismatic depends on whether or not they’re doing certain things. Things you and I can do right now with the next person we meet.
“In order to be charismatic, we need to choose mental states that make our body language, words and behaviours flow together and express the three core elements of charisma”
Your body screams louder than your words
An MIT Media Lab studies found you could predict, with 87% accuracy, the outcome of negotiations, sales calls and business pitches just by observing people’s body language, without hearing a word. Why? It’s because we can’t consciously control our body language; doing so would involve trying to control 1000s of micro-movements, like 1000s of facial expressions, voice, and more. You couldn’t do that AND listen to someone. So our body does this subconsciously. Your body follows the cue your thoughts send its way.
Charisma begins in the mind
“Our body language expresses our mental state whether we like it or not. […] Because we don’t control this flow consciously, whatever is in our head will show up in our body language.”
Imagine being in the middle of a conversation with someone, you’re listening to them talk about their weekend, and suddenly a thought crashes through your mind about a client’s request you forgot to follow-up on. Momentarily side-tracked, you try to focus on the other person, nodding and smiling where you think you should have.
Cabane’s book reveals our mind can read facial expressions in 17 milliseconds, so even the teeniest delayed reaction is noticeable, people can see any flash of contradicting facial-expression. Also, when your mind wanders, it communicates to your brain to tell your eyes to glaze over, which is noticeable to the person who’s talking to you. They feel it intuitively, and know there’s something fishy going on. Then they think you’re inauthentic and untrustworthy. Once you’re there, it’s hard to get back in their good books.
Just think about a time you met someone who seemed inauthentic. That first impression stuck with you, didn’t it? It’s hard to shake off. In fact studies show, when we have a first impression, we spend subsequent meetings looking for clues to prove ourselves right.
The 3 charismatic behaviours
Cabane discovered charisma can be broken down into three core behaviours – so when you’re being all these three at the same time, you’re really cranking up the charm!
If you think you can fake “listening”, you can’t. The other person can tell in an instant that you’re not listening or present, and it comes across as inauthentic, pretending to listen. So being present is a core charisma behaviour. Be there, not in your head.
You can practise being present simply by listening to your breath. If a thought gatecrashes your head, be aware of where your hands are, and feel the sensations in your hands.
Another key component to amplify your charisma is power, to be seen as being able to affect the world around us. Demonstrating intelligence and expertise are also ways to look powerful.
You can cultivate power simply by visualising yourself in powerful state, by remembering a time when you were successful, visualise what it looked like and how it felt. Doing so floods the brain with oxytocin. I do this before my speeches and workshops, it works like a charm.
The third key ingredient of charisma is projecting warmth, which is simply showing kindness towards others. Warmth tells people whether or not the powerful person will act in our favour. We evaluate a person’s warmth though body language and behaviour.
A simple way to stoke warmth is through compassion. The trick with compassion is, it starts with self-compassion – you can’t be compassionate towards others if you’re not compassionate towards yourself – you can’t give what you don’t have. So be kind to yourself, and know you’re always doing the best you can. When you feel this about yourself, you will automatically project this towards others.
To know others is knowledge. To know yourself is wisdom – Lao Tzu.
Develop a charismatic personality with these practises
- Ask open-ended questions, keeping them focused on positive subjects, because people associate you to whatever feelings your questions generate.
- Keep the spotlight on them for as long as you can.
“Talk to a man about himself, and he will listen for hours,” – Benjamin Disraeli
- Use the word you instead of I. So instead of “I read an article in the New Yorker”, “you might enjoy a recent article in the New Yorker on that subject”.
- Don’t interrupt. When someone interrupts you, let them. Leave gaps, to give them opportunities to jump in. This is probably a tough one for some, but when you’re present, your ego won’t be around to get offended.
- And to be clear, letting others interrupt is not about being disrespected. If you feel inferior, you will interpret it as dissing you. If you stand in the place of I am enough, you will give them the opportunity to shine. Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about how you make others feel. We’re equal. It’s a given.
- People love to hear themselves talk. The more you let them speak, the more they will like you. Seems counter-intuitive, but I’ve seen this many times.
- Don’t try to impress people. Let them impress you, and they will love you for it. You don’t need to sound smart. You just need to make them feel smart. If you feel like to need to impress, it means you’re not present and the ego has taken over.
Win them over
When you know how to develop charismatic personality, people will love being around you, prospects will love you and will want to do business with you. Charisma is a state of mind, and the three core behaviours are presence, power and warmth. Charisma is about making others feel good about themselves when they are with you. When you do, they look forward to being with you, because they like themselves better as a result.
People will forget what you did, what you say, but they will always remember how you made them feel – Maya Angelou.
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