How to be More Charismatic- The Myth of Charisma

How to Be More Charismatic

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A while back, during the birth of CollegeConqueror, I did surveys to gauge what students had the most problems with in college. Overwhelmingly, there was a single, common issue that I’d notice. When it came down to it, most people questioned if they would be able to make friends in college.

This didn’t surprise me at all because through most of my college life (especially around my Junior year, oddly enough) I was clueless when it came to making friends.

I imagine that if others are like me, they saw college as this new place with new people from a variety of different locations. These weren’t just your friends that you’d see from your hometown, this was a whole new battle.

Inevitably, I think most of us make friends in college early on but it’s mostly due to proximity; we have certain classes with certain people, live with or near certain people, or work with certain people and they became our friends.

Now, while that’s great, I have learned that it’s highly beneficial to seek out friends (that compliment you but foster growth) rather than simply accept those that are close nearby. If you want to read more about this, check out my article about Finding your Tribe.

Throughout the various books I’ve read and the leaders I’d look into, there was a common element that simply made each of these individuals magnetic and appealing. This single trait allowed them to gather friends and followers with little effort.

What is that trait, you ask?

It’s charisma.

It seemed clear that these individuals just have a great deal of charisma. Ever see Fight Club? Are you familiar with the character Tyler Durden (played by Brad Pitt) who leads a group known as Project Mayhem? His charisma is ultimately his most powerful trait; the ability to draw followers and influence others.

But why am I bringing all of this up?

Well, I believe that in order to make friends with ease, it helps to be charismatic. I believe that this is especially true in college since charisma is linked with success in the long-term. Overall, it’s a win-win scenario since you’ll gain more friends and you’ll set yourself up for higher success, faster, later on in life.

Now, I don’t consider myself to be a considerably charismatic guy. I have taken steps to practice building charismatic tendencies and have implemented techniques that I’ve personally learned about (with some good success to be honest), but by no means would I dare call myself charismatic.

To be honest, for basic interactions, I don’t think it’s necessary to possess Brad Pitt’s level of charismatic charm.

I do, however, think it’s good to understand some basics and try to develop a foundation. For that reason, I wanted to share some tips from Olivia Fox Cabane, who is known as an expert in the field of charisma and leadership. Most of the information present comes from her book The Myth of Charisma.

What is Charisma

So, let’s start with the definition of charisma. A basic dictionary defines charisma as compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others. Essentially, it’s a trait that causes that magnetism towards another.

Cabane explains that charisma, despite what many people believe, is not something you’re born with. Rather, it’s a trait that can be learned over time with practice. She cites Steve Jobs as a prime example.

In 1984, when Steve Jobs was first launching his apple product, he decided to face his fear of public speaking. He went on to launch the Macintosh but his presentation, as you can see below, contrasted significantly from a presentation we would see a little before his passing, when he was well-regarded as a highly charismatic individual and an effective communicator (the fact that so many of us have iPhones, apple laptops, or other apple devices is evidence enough).

As you can see, he was a little stiff. He was also slightly awkward. It wasn’t a terrible presentation but it wasn’t great either. Fast-forward to 2011 and see if you can spot some significant changes.

It’s not easy to point out but notice the vocal tonality, the pacing, and the overall body language in the comparison between the two videos.

She notes that over time, Steve Jobs would practice his ability to be charismatic, even mimicking techniques from magicians.

How to become more Charismatic

Now the question becomes, how can you become more charismatic? What are some practical steps that you can use right now to create that magnetic appeal? Well, Cabane gives three components which overall make up the core of charisma. These components are:

Presence, Power, and Warmth.

Presence

Overall, she states that presence is the true core of charisma as a whole.

It’s being actively interested in others and engaging with whomever you are talking to. The key to being highly charismatic has less to do with being heard or having an inordinate amount of extroversion. Rather, it’s making others feel better about themselves.

To foster one’s presence, focus on engaging with whomever you’re talking to, actively focusing on what they’re saying and listening. It sounds super simple but believe it or not, many people don’t listen. Rather they simply hear what others around them are saying.

What’s the difference? Aren’t listening and hearing the exact same thing?

Well, not exactly. Hearing is simply allowing the sounds you hear from others to pass through your ears. It’s the act of having a conversation with someone while probably zoning off in your head or thinking about something else entirely. You can comprehend enough to say yes or no to their question and convince others that you are listening. But in reality, when the conversation is over, you usually leave without really understanding the purpose of the conversation or the overall topic as a whole.

Listening, on the other hand, is actively taking in what another is saying. It’s digesting it, thinking about it, and providing active feedback whether in the form of good eye contact and a head nod or questions that actively show interest.

That final part is key.

Cabane indicates that overall, a huge part of Presence and Charisma as a whole is to show genuine interest.

Power

No, this doesn’t have anything to do with physical strength, size, or fighting abilities. This has more to do with the way you behave; it’s how others perceive you. To put it simply, it’s your body language.

She uses the metaphor of the king and queen. Whenever you see a piece of fiction and someone is in a position of power, there tends to be an obvious visual indicating that power. Imagine a king and queen seated upright in their throne or standing high above a crowd looking down upon their subjects.

Even seemingly minor things such as walking and how one stands can effectively portray more charisma.

It is said that those who can effectively exude the power component of charisma can make themselves appear as though they can affect the world around them.

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For some quickly applicable methods, consider these three ways to appear more charismatic off the bat:

Speak more slowly.

This doesn’t mean speak at a snail’s pace. However, the idea is to speak clearly and control your words. Cabane suggests making use of pausing to allow your listeners to desire more or put them in a position on curiosity. Note how Bruce Lee in the video above speaks. His pace isn’t rushed. Each word seems carefully chosen. There’s a certain form of cohesion present.

Move less

Don’t become a sloth or a brick wall. Have you ever seen people who move too quickly and seem panicked? Don’t be that person. Instead, move with a calm demeanor. Move slowly with purpose.

 

Take up more space

You don’t need to dominate everyone in the room. However, don’t be the kind of person that balls themselves up and appears small. Take a minute to think about those that seem powerful. They don’t have to be people you know, in fact, if you don’t know them that’s better. Did you picture famous actors…. or perhaps athletes? Sure, the latter tends to be big but their body language helps them appear even larger.

The most well-known players tend to have very extreme ways of moving with outstretched arms and extreme personas.

Cabane suggests taking “power poses” with hands on the hips or even legs crossed wide (if you’re sitting down).

If you ever need inspiration, think of a comic book superhero. You’ve probably never seen a comic book hero simply standing still. Any picture they’re in gives the sense that they are on a mission or perhaps about to spring into action. Even the most basic acts are amplified with expression.

They are purposefully drawn in poses that give them a sense of charisma. If they were real, you’d notice them immediately (although the colorful costumes certainly don’t hurt).

Warmth

The best way to sum up warmth: are you tolerating others or do you actually care about others?

This final step is key to exuding that overall Warmth. Your goal is to make others around you feel more comfortable. There are many different ways to portray the feeling of warmth but three methods that I think are the easiest to practice immediately are: empathy, find something you like about whoever you’re interacting with and developing a genuine curiosity in others.

So, to sum everything up:

  • Charisma is not something one is born with; Charisma can be learned
  • The keys to charisma are Power, Warmth, and Presence
  • Presence involves active listening and engaging with whomever you’re talking to
  • Power involves your body language and exuding a certain sense of confidence
  • Warmth involves empathy and genuinely caring about those around

Hope you enjoyed this article. There is so much I’ve read regarding charisma and techniques that I thought college students might find useful but I didn’t want to cluster too much here.

However, in the future, I do plan on doing articles that will take apart each component of charisma and other opinions and sum everything up to make it easily understood based on the research of the top leaders within the field.

As a bonus, check out this video on the charisma breakdown of the famous Dwayne the Rock Johnson if you want a way to further illustrate some of the points mentioned above and more.

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