There are people who ooze charisma and charm. When they walk in a room people notice, and when they speak, people listen. It’s as if they were born with superpowers that enables them to communicate in a way that energizes others and causes people to want to be around them. They have mastered charisma, and the good news is you can actually master it too, and it has nothing to do with whether you are an extrovert or an introvert.
Charisma is a learned and developed skill, and just like a muscle, you can work on strengthening it in order to master your personal magnetism. There are four distinct kinds of charisma that will be discussed in this article.
This kind of charisma is all about presence. When you give off focus charisma people feel heard, understood and special, which makes it appropriate for almost all business situations. You want to use this style for negotiation, defusing hostile situations and appearing authoritative.
If you’re not grounded, it will be impossible to master this type of charisma, as your mind will be wandering and the other person will feel it (even if you act like you are present and attentive). Focus charisma is hard to fake – because presence is something that people feel. If being grounded and present is a challenge for you, I suggest you start with a daily meditation practice.
Hold eye contact
While you don’t want to come across as interrogative or too intense, keeping eye contact helps you build focus charisma. When your eyes roam, your mind wanders and you diminish your charisma. Also, pay attention to have you break gaze. The brain is hardwired to experience separation distress whenever someone we have significant eye contact with turns away. To avoid this anxiety from occurring in the other person, hold eye contact for 3 full seconds at the end of your interaction with someone. The person will feel you have truly paid attention to them.
Numerous scientific studies have found that eye contact significantly influences likability, trustworthiness and attractiveness. In addition, you want your body language to be welcoming. Uncross your arms, have your palms facing up. Position your body so that you are completely turned to the person, and lean in when the person is sharing information.
This kind of charisma inspires and rallies others to believe in your vision, direction and leadership. People who embody this kind of charisma are often strongly passionate about their vision and come across with absolute conviction (think Steve Jobs). It’s attractive because people are naturally uncomfortable with uncertainty and therefore crave the confidence and assured energy that visionary charismatics exude.
Strong emotions are contagious which is referred to as emotional cognition. Dr. Elaine Hatfield, a preeminent researcher in this area, has conducted numerous studies which have found that people catch the emotions of others. Thus, if you emit positive energy and passion when conveying your vision and ideas, people will naturally start to ‘catch’ the excitement and inspiration.
This kind of charisma is based on warmth, connecting emotionally and making people feel welcomed and completely accepted (think Dalai Lama). This is powerful for building rapport, and helps people calm down, trust, and start talking. It’s also effective when you need to deliver bad news. Research has shown that when people perceive you as warm they are more likely to trust you and embrace your ideas.
The first thing you can do to build kindness charisma is to smile which causes you to be considered more approachable and competent. Research conducted by Dr. Robert Zajonic identified that when facial muscles contort to produce a smile, blood flow to the brain increases. This lowers the brain’s temperature and naturally produces feelings of pleasure, putting one in a more optimistic mood. In addition, smiling has been shown to activate mirror neurons in the brain, which causes the smile to be reciprocated.
Give up the mic
Learning how to be masterful in conversation is an art form, and it begins with genuine curiosity of the other person, and an ability to create rapport. Instead of dominating a conversation about you, give the mic to the other person, and listen attentively. When you ask insightful questions, you guide others in self-disclosure, which is key to rapport building.
In a study conducted at Harvard University, researchers found that when people reveal information to others about themselves, participants showed greater neural activity in the areas of the brain associated with reward and pleasure. The research confirmed that our brains are literally wired to enjoy sharing information about ourselves. These good feelings will shape their perception of both you and your conversation.
When people share, they get dopamine. Dopamine feels good, and people want more of what feels good. So, if they are talking to you and unable to share, the conversation won’t feel good, and they won’t be compelled to keep engaging in conversations with you.
This form is likely the most powerful one of all because the human reaction to authority is hardwired in our brains. According to the book, The Charisma Myth, people are biologically programmed to access status because it favors our survival: high status people possess the power to help or hurt us. This kind of charisma is based on the perception of power.
People subconsciously evaluate someone’s authority charisma through body language, appearance, title, and the reactions of others. To project power and confidence in your body language, you’ll need to adjust your body so that you take up space (hunched and making your body small are signs of submissiveness). Also, avoid excessive head nodding and practice speaking more slowly. Master the art of using pauses in between sentences and coming across as composed, versus nervous. This kind of charisma is useful during crisis, when you need immediate compliance from people and need people to listen and obey. However, in situations where you want to encourage creativity, it can inhibit critical thinking in others.
One’s charisma is accessed within seconds, and once someone has an impression of you, the rest of your relationship will be tinted by it. In a study conducted at the University of Texas, people were able to accurately judge nine out of ten personality traits merely by looking at a photograph. Researchers at Harvard discovered that first impressions are determined by the fastest part of the brain. This primitive (also referred to as reptilian) brain generates our instinctive reflexes that may have once been a key to our ancestors’ survival.
We oscillate between the different types of charisma depending on context and situation, however, there will likely be one predominant type of charisma that is more natural to you. As you practice the different kinds of charisma, you’ll realize that personal magnetism is an acquired skill that can be mastered.
Charisma is about how you make people feel
The overarching theme here is that charisma is not about you – it’s about others. Being magnetic, interesting, and appealing is about how you make others feel. You can hack this with various techniques, but it comes down to energy, which is something that cannot be faked. If you focus on how you want to leave others feeling after an interaction with you and make it your intention to leave people feeling more inspired, understood and comfortable, you will automatically become more charismatic. Start there.