If I were to ask you to name the most charismatic person or character you can think of, who might it be and why? Might it be a fictional character such as James Bond? Or perhaps a celebrity such as Oprah or Chris Hemsworth? Or maybe it’s a political figure such as Barack Obama. While charisma is often in the eye of the beholder, (in other words it’s a subjective feeling) we can agree that people who are charismatic do share several identifiable traits. And the good news is that you can model these traits if charisma is something you’d like to build into your character.
Why be charismatic?
Charismatic people are attractive, likeable, and respected. They convey a contagious confidence for their point of view and can win people over with their magnetic personality and charm. When someone is charismatic, people want to be like them and they also want to spend time with them. And when someone is charismatic, they are automatically more believable, no matter their point of view. You will most definitely be more persuasive if you can develop your perceived charisma.
What is charisma?
Some theorists describe charisma as a ‘presence’. Other’s call charisma the X-factor. I had great fun looking up the synonyms of charisma. Charisma is a synonym for “appeal, attractiveness, allure, captivation, personality, magnetism”. Who wouldn’t want to be described like that? And yes, charisma is very important in persuasion because if you are charismatic, you possess a compelling attractiveness that inspires commitment and agreement in others. In short, charisma makes you more persuasive.
How can you become charismatic?
There are three areas to work on if you want to build your perceived charisma with others: They are:
Presence. Presence is about a smoothness of activity. Imagine a swan gliding along the water. They seem calm, serene, and controlled. Under the water their legs are kicking and paddling furiously, but you don’t see all that commotion. All you see is the grace and poise on top of the water. People with charisma are smooth on the surface just like that swan! To ensure you seem smooth on the surface it’s important to limit stressful behaviour such as jerky movements, closed body language, and impulsive comments, or actions.
Another element of presence relates to your focus. Charismatic people are focused in the moment. When they are speaking with you they can block out distractions and make you feel like you are the only person in the room.
Power. Power is all about your self-belief and how much you like and back yourself. It’s about an inner confidence that radiates from you and implies success. If you’re not sure that you are radiating confidence the good news is that you can fake it until you make it. You can demonstrate power by holding an upright, commanding posture, maintaining direct-connected eye contact, and by your superior ability to articulate your point through excellent structure and clever storytelling.
Charismatic people are great storytellers. They know how to link a story to almost any situation that arises. And when they tell the story they communicate with confidence, passion, and enthusiasm. They sweep people up in the fascination of it all. An important part of being able to tell attention-grabbing and memorable stories is being ‘in the know’ about what’s happening in the world. If you can link the conversation that you’re having with a thought-provoking fact it makes you and your story appealing. There is more information on storytelling later in the chapter. Perhaps you could begin to improve your power and charisma by participating in the conversations around you. Try to inject a short story, an example, or a metaphor (even in a small way) into every conversation.
If you want to have perceived power and charisma, one simple way to do this is amend how you introduce yourself to others. Instead of just saying your name in an unforgettable way try this, “Hello, I’m Michelle. Michelle Bowden”. You can see that I repeated my first name so that the person heard it twice. When I’m at work I say, “Hello. I’m Michelle. Michelle Bowden. Persuasive Presentation Skills Trainer.” It’s just like the famous line in James Bond: “The name is Bond, James Bond”.
Warmth. Warmth is about your perceived care and acceptance of the other person. If you are a charismatic person, you put people at ease and you make people feel amazing! You make others feel important and as though they matter. This of course can be very alluring and addictive to the people around you. People want to spend time with someone who makes them feel worthy. If you’re keen to develop this capability aim to do all the activities that build rapport easily, care about others, remember key facts about them. Interestingly warmth is also very much conveyed through the eyes and facial expressions. If you’d like to improve your warmth and therefore your charisma you could practice looking at people in the same way you would look at a person you care for deeply (don’t be weird about this though!) It’s important that while you are trying to boost your charisma you don’t use trickery to pretend you care about others. Instead, pay attention to all the micro cues around you, build your situational awareness including the environmental cues and the cues of your stakeholder and shift your behaviour so you do what you can to really care about others. Ensure this genuine care projects out through your eyes and facial expressions. This will dramatically improve your warmth and therefore your charisma.
Olivia Fox Cabane, author of the book “The Charisma Myth,” says if you imagine a person that you feel great warmth and affection for it can change your body chemistry in seconds so that you exude the warmth that is linked to charismatic people.
In general, it’s easier to develop your charisma if you know someone else who is charismatic and adopt some of their traits. You don’t need to take on all their behaviours, just the ones that suit your personality and work. If you don’t have family, friends, or colleagues who you’d describe as charismatic, perhaps you could watch former US President Barack Obama on YouTube, or the former Founder and CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs delivering a speech. The point is that we can all cultivate charisma. It’s about mastering one step at a time.
© Michelle Bowden 2021. Michelle Bowden is an authority on presentation & persuasion in business. Michelle is a CSP (the highest designation for speakers in the world), Creator of the Persuasion Smart Profile® (a world-first psychometric indicator that tests your persuasiveness at work), best-selling internationally published author (Wiley), and a regular commentator in print, radio and online media. www.michellebowden.com.au