Why is the true definition of charisma so hard to nail down?
There have been several studies since the early 60s that have attempted to pin down exactly what it is.
To date, some still believe in the charisma myth that says charisma is divinely bestowed and can’t be learned. Either you have it or you don’t.
What we do know is that some people have a personal magnetism that seems to make others flock to them.
People with this magnetism seem to be more attractive, more likable, and have it easier in social settings.
What I’ve personally learned is that you can develop your own personal magnetism. Given a few key practices, you can harness the elusive nature of charisma to work for yourself.
Just keep reading to find out how.
What charisma isn’t
The truth of charisma is no one really knows what it is.
What we think of as being charismatic is not necessarily high energy or extroverted. Though it’s easy to attribute this quality to extroverted folks because they naturally embody characteristics of charisma.
Charisma also isn’t reserved for good people. There are plenty of charismatic leaders throughout history that have done some damage to the world.
We have trouble defining charisma because, like intelligence, it’s multifaceted. One definition simply won’t do.
In her book, The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism, Olivia Fox Cabane, defines charisma as having three pillars:
- Power—the ability to affect change
- Presence—giving your focused attention to others
- Warmth—your depth of empathy and caring for others
On their own, each element is a strong charismatic personality trait to have. Combine them though and you have a superpower cocktail of magnetism.
Characteristics of charismatic people
Charisma is not inherently positive, though we attribute it to positive emotions. For example, charismatic politicians are often charged with demagoguery for being too charismatic.
Some examples from history of charismatic people are Winston Churchill, Malcolm X, and Joan of Arc. A few modern examples include Jamie Fox, Ryan Reynolds, and Donald Trump.
You might also think of social media influencers as charismatic. One of the core pillars of charisma is in the title:_ influence_.
It takes charisma to be engaging on social media. People go viral on platforms like Twitter every day due to their ability to influence others with their words.
Some physical and social characteristics of people with charisma include:
- Smiling a lot
- Comfort talking to a wide range of people
- Making others feel comfortable, seen, and heard
- Being approachable
- Having high emotional intelligence
- Being influential
A major pillar of charisma is likeability (at least to the right people). Just like personal magnetism, you can hack likeability too. Here’s a post I wrote about it recently: How to be more likeable: 5 strategies that worked for me
How to be more charismatic
If you’ve always wondered how some people can walk into any situation and captivate others, you’re in luck. The following 7 tips will help you be that charismatic person you’ve always wanted to be. Remember, it’s not an overnight fix but given a few tweaks to your behavior and consistent practice over time, you can be a stronger version of yourself before you know it. Just do the work.
1. Quit complaining
Yes, life is hard. Yes, people are often dicks. No, it shouldn’t be that way but guess what? It is. You have to face the reality that the only thing you can control in life is your thoughts and your actions.
If given a choice between the red pill of reality and the blue bill of comfortable ignorance, take the red pill.
Besides, complaining all the time is just not attractive to anyone, and pessimism is tied to shorter life spans. This doesn’t mean don’t be honest with yourself. If you see something in your life that needs changing, change it. Optimism and positivity will simply go a long way to actually helping you make those changes.
As a benefit, people will like you more and see you as a person that is always growing.
2. Develop your self-confidence
Easier said than done, I know. But confidence is the glue that holds your personality together. Here’s what I mean: when you like yourself more, you avoid approval-seeking behaviors, placing people on pedestals, and making unwise decisions based on what other people think.
Confidence is a glacier of a personality trait, meaning there are several other small traits that all result in higher self-confidence.
- Competence in a skill or hobby
- Taking care of your outward appearance
- Consistent personal standards
- Engaging in positive self-talk
- Surrounding yourself with people that celebrate you
Confidence in yourself gives other people permission to have confidence in themselves. They believe you know what you’re doing, or at the least can figure it out. They don’t feel like they are being blindly led.
Though it can take time to develop, put in the hard work. Not only will you feel better about yourself in any setting, you’ll build an environment where going back to lacking confidence is supremely reduced.
3. Learn how to talk to people
Charismatic individuals are more comfortable around others and seem to have more ease when carrying on conversations with people from various backgrounds. The best at this skill are usually those in people-facing roles like sales and PR.
You can learn the art of small talk but the gold is in learning to carry conversations and ask questions that lead to bonding.
Learning how to have a conversation is integral to becoming a person of influence. This isn’t a trait reserved for extroverts either. Learning things like how to ask intriguing, open-ended, and relevant questions can make even the most introverted come across as charismatic.
Why does this work?
People like to talk about themselves. And more than that, people have a psychological need to feel connected to others. Having conversations helps them do that.
If talking to strangers makes your palms sweat though, I got you. I wrote a post on how to overcome social awkwardness a while back.
4. Let people know you’re listening
Active listening is a major part of succeeding in social interactions. I’ve gotten pretty good at talking to strangers over the years but there was one time it back-fired.
I got into a ride-share and the driver just kept asking me questions non-stop. He didn’t even pause to consider the answers I was giving. I could easily not have been there and the conversation would have been just as effective.
Don’t do this. It’ll make people avoid you.
When people talk, give them your full attention—then _respond to what they are saying. _
Use your hands as you talk, show genuine interest, share that person’s name with another person–anything to show you are actually present with them. And avoid talking for longer than 20-40 seconds at a time.
If you have trouble with your mind wandering when people talk, breathing techniques such as the Wim Hof Method can help you find your focus.
5. Face your demons: the dark side of charisma
There is a dark side to charisma I’ve kind of been hinting at: having charisma isn’t inherently a positive thing. In fact, because people seek the adoration and adherence of others so much, they try to hack it.
We see this with people that take power through force and ruthless violence. We see it in athletes that have bravado but rely on their talent even when it’s clear it’s not enough. And we see it with men that try to pick up women by talking about how much money they have.
The thing about this is, it works! But it always leads to attracting others that don’t have your best interests at heart.
That which is easily gained is easily lost.
Without facing your need for acceptance, your past hurts, or your shortcomings you become a person that has to pretend to have charisma, instead of being genuinely captivating.
6. Work on your body language
Body language, facial expressions, and vocal tonecontribute significantly to how you are perceived. Your ability to pick up on subtle social cues—also called emotional intelligence—is directly related to how successful you’ll be in social interactions. It also determines how successful you’ll be in any career.
Start noticing other people’s body language such as their facial expressions and posture and learn to decipher what they mean.
Try these things to send good social signals:
- Make eye contact so they know you are interested and listening
- Smile to create warmth and appear more approachable
- Use open body posture instead of crossing your arms or legs or turning away
- Mirror their body language to establish a rapport (do the opposite if they are angry or defensive)
- Relax your posture in social settings to create more warmth and approachability
7. Get good at something
Getting good at things helped me see myself in a different light. For a long time, I spent my days in distraction and self-loathing. Learning new languages, becoming a chess master, and learning to box all gave me confidence and courage to continually improve.
To develop the Power pillar of charisma, people need to be able to trust your ability to affect change. You can only do that by getting good at something.
You don’t have to be influential in every area of your life. Building a skill or investing in a hobby helps you build rapport with those already invested in those same skills and hobbies.
How to be more charismatic in a nutshell
At the end of the day, charisma can be summed up as the ability to attract and influence others. When you’re charismatic, people like you more, they go out of their way to help you, and they actively try to impress you.
It’s powerful magnetism that, when genuinely achieved, you never lose.
Here’s how to be more charismatic in a nutshell:
- Don’t complain, it’s not attractive
- Develop your confidence and everything else will be easier
- Learn how to make conversation that makes people feel connected
- Give people your full attention
- Avoid the dark side at all costs by overcoming your shortcomings
- Work on your body language
- Invest in growing your skills and interests
Just keep moving forward. The man who consistently invests in his growth eventually becomes great.