The art of being charismatic

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Charisma is not just that hallmark that permits you to seduce the opposite sex: charisma is much more than that.

When you look back through history, the world has witnessed many charismatic leaders. These leaders, throughout their quest, have been enlivened by conviction and commitment to a cause. They have inspired people and communicated on an emotionally profound level. These people have attained genuine greatness by successfully leading change and enhancement, no matter how difficult the situation. Malcolm X, John F Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela are among those leaders who have shown tremendous charisma.

Nevertheless, there is something that makes them so charismatic. An element that is hardly acknowledged in the world, but which makes all the difference. Before introducing it to you, let us briefly consider the term in question: charisma.

What is it ?

I can hear you already: a self-confident person, with a deep voice and a gorgeous body that pulls all the focus when he or she enters a room, without having to make any apparent effort. Almost enchanting, isn’t it?

Many people rely on body language, voice and first impressions to define a person’s charisma. While these criteria are interesting, they are only the final touch to a strong core of beliefs.

To make it simple, Charisma, for better or for worse, is a type of aura that someone exudes that makes the person or persons in contact with the charismatic person believe that the charismatic person has the qualities he or she desires.

In other words, it is a person who is able to draw attention, to emotionally involve others with his or her words, to follow sound values or opinions without seeming to lack these qualities.

Good posture, a deep voice, a strong first impression, and all the other qualities that people may identify when describing a charismatic person are really just a natural combination of two rules that you apply well enough in your life until they take effect.

What are these rules?

The two rules for being charismatic

Rule number 1: Be the one who doesn’t care (or at least try)

What differentiates charismatic people from others is usually the simple fact that at times when others hold back because they are afraid of something, charismatic people do it regardless. Whether they want to be the center of attention, make a joke, make a suggestion, give an opinion, stand up to authority, have high expectations, or let others know what they want or are, charismatic people do it regardless of their fears.

They advocate values that are steadily reflected in the way they behave. These values serve as a measure and a reference for them. In other words, charismatic people know what they want, have clear goals and sufficient confidence to achieve them. This gives them a superpower effect that allows them not to really care what others might think of them or their actions.

This does not mean that charismatic people do not care about others or that they are simply awful people. In fact, the opposite is true. Most of the time, they care about others and are not assholes. This brings us to the second point.

Rule number 2: Be the one who makes others feel good about themselves when they are around you. 

When you consider charisma, you might be thinking about trying to make yourself look super awesome in front of others. However, the counterintuitive secret of charisma is that it’s not about bragging about your good qualities, but about making the other person feel good about themselves around you. True charisma stems from the idea that the other person feels important: when they are done interacting with you, they feel better about themselves than they did before.

So concentrate your emotional and psychological energy on someone when you interact with that person: that’s how you create that sense of importance. People basically expect attention. They expect to be heard and recognized.

Understanding these two rules is fundamental. If you are trying to be charismatic, you must primarily focus on what you want to do in your life. [5] This is the most essential element. You have to determine the type of people you want to be around and the type of life you want to live. Then, try not to worry about other things that might get in your way. Also, you shouldn’t even worry about being charismatic.

What does this mean? 

Well, charisma is a paradox. It is an aura that you impart that suggests that you are in your own world with your own goals and that you are in total control of that world. Simultaneously, you are also open to exploring and sharing other people’s world perspectives while remaining in your own world. This gives the impression that you are confident in your ability to achieve your goals and comfortable with yourself, while being able to connect with others. It is this type of warmth combined with power that makes charismatic people so attractive.

Let’s consider the case of Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was so confident about his world that he spread this “unreality” to others. His colleagues called it the “reality distortion field” because Steve believed that he and his colleagues could achieve seemingly impossible feats in impossible time frames. Pure belief and conviction helped others achieve goals they could not have dreamed of. Steve cared so little only that when he was kind (which was not often the case), it was incredibly appealing.

Olivia Fox Cabane, author of the famous book “The Charisma Myth,” describes him as a prime example of someone who learned what she calls “visionary charisma” over the course of his career. :

“In his first presentation in 1984, you can see he’s a nerd,” she says. “He’s depending on the product to sell itself. He displays no power nor presence, and certainly no warmth. “But what you see gradually through the early 2000s, is Jobs gaining the elements of charisma. He displays presence first – he looks at his audience and focuses on them rather than the product. He learns power second, gradually taking up more of the stage, and projecting his voice.

This proves that charisma is not inevitably innate, but can be learned and expressed in certain aspects of life.

After all, there is another way in which you can achieve the desired level of charisma. In a 2016 study [2], participants read a story about the career of an American scientist who created a vaccine against a specific bacterium. When the article pointed out that the scientist had died from a disease caused by the bacterium in question, people thought he was more connected to America and more charismatic. In other words, we often praise people after they die and perceive them as more charismatic.

As you may have noticed, although it seems to be effective, I do not recommend this method. Unless you want to look like this :

I doubt it!

In the meantime, let’s find out what makes all the difference.

It is a good chance that the way a person expresses himself is a fundamental element of his level of charisma. After closely scrutinizing a few speeches by people such as Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy or Theodore Roosevelt, Cynthia G. Emrich, a researcher on leadership, and her colleagues came to the conclusion that when they speak, they use words based on images. [6] This goes almost unnoticed by their listeners. Let me explain.

At his inauguration, John F. Kennedy, considered one of America’s most charismatic presidents, issued the following challenge : “Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce. ” [3] Unlike him, Jimmy Carter actually pleaded: “Let our recent mistakes bring a resurgent commitment to the basic principles of our Nation, for we know that if we despise our own government we have no future.” [4]

John’s charisma is illustrated in his liberal use of image-based words such as “explore”, “stars”, “desert”, “disease” and “ocean depths”. Jimmy, on the other hand, used many words based on concepts such as “mistakes”, “commitment”, “basic principles” and “knowledge”. This difference in expression has a huge impact on a leader’s level of charisma and is not limited to heads of state.

Martin Luther King is a prime example of such influence. Regarded as the most visible leader of the 1955 civil rights movement, he said in his speech before the Lincoln Memorial :

” I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. “

Throughout this part of his speech, Martin allowed the audience to envision what he was saying by using words that appeal to their imagination: words based on images. This use is invaluable because people are more persuaded to act when the objectives seem both noble and achievable. In addition, when the values a leader stands for overlap with those of the people he is trying to influence, the latter will feel more connected to him. They will want to be like him  and will be more willing to follow him.

Once you understand this and are able to do it the right way, remember to make people feel good about themselves. Connect with them. Pay attention to them. They will love you for it.

And I hope you will really love them back.

Notes

  1. Steve jobs’ speech 1984: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bepzUM1x3w
  2. Niklas K. Steffens, Kim Peters, S. Alexander Haslam, Rolf van Dick, Dying for charisma: Leaders’ inspirational appeal increases post-mortem, The Leadership Quarterly, Volume 28, Issue 4, 2017.
  3. Inaugural Address of John F. Kennedy https://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/kennedy.asp
  4. Inaugural Address of Jimmy Carter https://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/carter.asp
  5. How do you know what you want in your life? Find out in the article written about it.
  6. Emrich, Cynthia G., et al. “Images in Words: Presidential Rhetoric, Charisma, and Greatness.” Administrative Science Quarterly, vol. 46, no. 3, 2001, pp. 527–557. JSTOR, jstor.org/stable/3094874. Accessed 12 Nov. 2020.

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The art of being charismatic

by Gulpes