Charisma is essentially intangible. In spite of this, you will always know when you are in the presence of a charismatic person, because they have the ability to engage your attention in a way that someone without that personality trait would struggle to do. Charisma, like charm, is indefinable but you know when you’ve experienced it in action: you come away from an encounter knowing you’ve been with someone extraordinary and special. In essence, they make you feel that you’re the most important person in the room. Compare and contrast that with so many people you meet who seem to be looking over your shoulder to see if they’re missing something on the other side of the room or if there’s someone more important to talk to.
I want to quote from an article in respect of the actor Will Smith which I came across while on a recent trip to the USA:
“Spend seven seconds sitting across from Will Smith, and you’ll discover why he is a superstar. He’s charming and attentive, observant and clever – without ever seeming to try. When he talks, he makes eye contact; when he laughs, it takes over his entire body. Though he seems happy-go-lucky, he didn’t end up where he is by accident – Smith is consistently in charge, on point and thinking ahead.”
Not everyone is fortunate enough to be born charismatic, but with a bit of effort, you can develop it to a significant degree. Here are 10 tips to help you do so.
1 The overwhelmingly large part of communication is non-verbal. Often your body language says more than your words. Research has shown that only 7% of understanding comes from the listening part of a conversation. It is therefore absolutely essential to show positive body language. Your posture is so important – individuals who slouch or hunch their shoulders convey negative messages. Smile and look people in the eye when communicating. Nod frequently to show that you are listening and try to allow them time to finish their sentences before jumping in with what you want to say.
2 Develop your communication skills – speak and write with flair. Speaking confidently is not a gift possessed by all but can be developed by all. Tone, cadence, use of pauses, speed of speech; emphasizing certain words – sometimes repeating key words; lack of ‘uhs’ and ‘ums’ and ‘you know’ and avoidance of jargon; varying the number of words in successive sentences; and, not least, vocabulary – all these contribute to your style of speech, and many to your particular style of writing. Think about Barack Obama compared to John McCain. A neat handwriting can be achieved by practice and says so much about you as a person. Challenge yourself to download dictionary.com and learn a new word every day and try to use it.
3 Develop an individual style of ‘being’ – in what you wear, how you conduct yourself etc. This helps to establish your ‘presence factor, the impact you make on people you meet, the first impression you create. It requires being particular about everything you do, whether its ordering a particular type of tea (say Assam or Earl Grey) or coffee (double espresso macchiato rather than instant with milk), your favourite tipple (Balvenie double wood single malt rather than ‘whisky’.) It means you dress with flair and style, not necessarily flash but always neat, shoes polished, hair styled, nails cleaned. For women wearing striking costume jewellery, for men an eye-catching tie, will have people remembering you.
4 Charismatic people convey the message that they are ‘authentic’ – authentic people are more likely to be trusted. Authentic people have the courage of their convictions. To be authentic, always follow through on your promises/actions – walk the talk, don’t just talk the talk. Follow-up contacts, if promised, the very next day and think of who you know who might be a useful contact for people you’ve just met. Always deliver more than you promise – never disappoint. Believe in your cause – believe in yourself.
5 Make everyone you meet feel important. Be generous with praise without being sycophantic. Be warm but be genuine. Engage with people, find a point of rapport with each and every person – make people feel good about themselves and good about you. Pick up on an accent or notice a piece of jewellery and ask a question about it – it will break the ice when you’re both a little inhibited or nervous.
6 Sense of humour is key – but never at anyone else’s expense. Convey an image of loving life, of being fun to be with, of being playful. Above all don’t take yourself or life too seriously – life may be depressing, but it doesn’t mean you have to be depressed! Don’t tell jokes unless you feel very confident about your delivery and remember the punchline!
7 Be master of your domain: prepare your subject thoroughly – develop your expertise, skills and knowledge. Work to eliminate areas of weakness. Leave nothing to chance. If possible, before a meeting or event, try to find out the guestlist, see if there’s anyone you know or would like to know. Find out a little about them and impress the hell out of them when you meet them and ask about one of their favourite interests or recent achievements.
8 Passion: being passionate requires that you be enthusiastic, spontaneous, challenging and energetic. It is what excites you and gets your adrenalin flowing. One thing that draws a crowd and makes someone the centre of attention is a person who exhibits that kind of passion.
9 Persistence: charismatic people do not take no for an answer. Like the legendary Pacman, if they cannot get round an obstacle, they go over, under or even through it. Giving up is not an option. Finding the ‘tipping point’ is: looking for the often small ‘tweak’ that will take you across the threshold. Being persistent will impress the person who is being difficult or evasive.
10 Most of all, have the courage of your convictions: be prepared to take intelligent and considered risks (within reason) to get where you want to be. Be prepared sometimes to step into the unknown – feel the fear about finding the extended you, but do it anyway. Changing your life can be so much fun, and can be so exhilarating and worthwhile!
Challenge yourself to significantly raise your charisma chart!