The Charisma Myth

The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism

Charisma Demystified
Charisma is a set of learned behaviors. It can be broken into three categories: Presence, power and warmth. If you are not present, people will detect this instantly and you will be perceived as inauthentic and untrustworthy. It is less about time and more about how present you are in each interaction. Power is the perception that you can effect change. Warmth is about goodwill and using your power in a way that favors others. Body language is the most important aspect of charisma. Since body language expresses the mental state, a charismatic state needs to come from the mind. Your mind can’t tell fact from fiction. You can use this to change your mental state.

Practices for Increasing Presence (1 min)
  • Scan your environment for the sounds
  • Focus on your breathing
  • Focus on the sensations in your toes
Physical and mental factors can hinder your charismatic state. Physical stimuli also impact your mental state. People interpret physical reactions as reactions to them. To avoid physical factors from hindering you prevent, recognize, or remedy. Mental discomfort can be caused by anxiety, dissatisfaction, self-criticism, and self-doubt.

Methods to Overcome Mental Discomfort
  • Responsibility Transfer
    Sit and relax. Imagine an entity. Lift the weight of everything you’re concerned about on the shoulders of the entity. Visually lift everything off your shoulders.
  • Destigmatize Discomfort
    Discomfort is normal. Long time ago shame meant rejection which resulted in death. Today, this is not the case.
  • Neutralize Negativity  – Negativity bias helped survival in the past. Understand that your thoughts are not accurate and may be missing many elements. Depersonalize the experience and understand your thoughts are not you. Worst case, you will still survive.
  • Rewrite Reality – Changing your belief is easier than trying to suppress or ignore you feelings. Think about how it is positive. e.g. if someone cuts you off on the road, assume it is someone who urgently needs to get to the hospital.
  • Comfort with Discomfort – Delve into sensations. Describe it to yourself. Stay present and build resiliency. Try small talk with strangers and make eye contact.
Exercises for Creating a Charismatic State
  • Visualization – Be very specific. i.e. If anxious, just imaging a hug can release oxytocin.
  • Gratitude and Appreciation – Think about small things you are grateful for. Imagine what you would say at someone’s funeral.
  • Goodwill – Think about three things you like about someone. Imagine angel wings. Say you like the person out loud. Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine it is their last day.
  • Self-Compassion – List ways you care for yourself when having a hard time. Metta: Think of a time you did something good and imagine an authority figure having affection for you and completely forgiving you and accepting you as perfect.
  • Body Language – Use the body to affect the mind. Be a general or gorilla. Changing your body language can create confidence.
  • Warm up – Don’t do anything too taxing beforehand. Talk to someone who makes you feel good. Listen to the right music.
Charisma Styles
Use styles that are appropriate. Don’t force yourself into a certain style you are not comfortable with in high stakes situations or you will be perceived as inauthentic. Let goodwill be your safety net.
  • Focus – Communicate through your demeanor. Presence is key. If you project too little power, you will look eager. If you lack warmth, it will feel like an interview. Good for most business situations, but not when you need to be authoritative.
  • Visionary – Inspires people. You need conviction because people fear uncertainty. This is assessed through demeanor and body language. People tend to assume what you project. Work yourself into a state of complete conviction.
  • Kindness – Characterized by tremendous warmth. Sometimes people may become overly attached. Need to present mostly warmth, but some power as well.
  • Authority – Mainly characterized by power. Body language is the most important, then appearance and title last. Project status and confidence. You can control your body language and clothes. Mitigate the downside by learning to emanate warmth.
Considerations Regarding First Impressions
  • Clothes – People like people like them and your overall appearance is evaluated before demeanor and body language.
  • Break the Ice – Compliment something. Ask about the “Story” of something. Open-ended questions. Focus on positive topics. Focus on the speaker. Match their vocabulary.
  • Graceful Exits – Be a volunteer and have an official duty. Offer something of value. Introduce them to someone else. People don’t remember what was said, but how you made them feel.
Speaking and Listening with Charisma
Be an attentive listener. Be present and commit to each interaction. Pause, absorb, and react. Let people know they are truly understood. People will associate you with how you make them feel so create positive associations and avoid negative ones. Learn to take and appreciate compliments. Make the complimenter feel good. Make friends by becoming interested in what they are interested in. Make them feel like the main character in the movie. Use images as the brain is wired visually. Avoid white elephants. If people are giving you attention deliver value by entertainment, information, or good feelings.
Tuning your voice appropriately can assist in your charismatic image. Try repeating the same sentence with different emotions. The power should be low, resonant and baritone. For volume, imagine your voice as arrows. The tempo should be slow, measured with frequent pauses. Speak slowly, pause, drop your intonation. Breath deeply and exhale out of your nose. Smiling can help with warmth. Even just thinking about smiling can help.

Charismatic Body Language
Body language affects us in a visceral and emotional level. This is what makes people care, obey, or feel inspired. Nonverbal communication is more hardwired than language which is a more recent development. When verbal and nonverbal are in conflict, people generally favor the non-verbal.

Factors to Consider
  • Emotional Contagion – There can be strong positive or negative ripple effects
  • Conscious Mirroring – Activates feelings of trust and liking. If the person’s body language is negative, you can mirror to gain rapport, but introduce warmth and try to bring them to a more relaxed position. When people are agitated, try to break their body language.
  • Personal Space – People feel ownership of their space, don’t disrespect it. Try to sit 90 degrees or next to them to facilitate easier conversations. Don’t have someone sit with their back to an open environment.
  • Eye Contact – Use to communicate empathy and thoughtfulness. Different emotions result in different types of looks for the eyes. Keep eyes relaxed for warmth.
  • Posture – Be big. Take up more space. Interchange with kindness charisma. Take deep breathes as short breathing causes stress hormones.
  • Regal Posture – Poise and take a few moments. Don’t fidget or nod excessively. Record yourself to become aware of your bad habits. If you do not add warmth, you will come across as being arrogant.

Dealing with Difficult Situations
Difficult People
Divide and conquer. Use the appropriate charisma techniques on each. Make them rationalize in your favor. Ask for favors. Ask for their opinions. People don’t like being inconsistent. Remind them that they helped you. Show sincere appreciation. Make it personal and specific. Make them feel invested in you and that what you are trying to do was influenced by them. Be empathetic by getting into a compassionate state. Create an alternative reality and assume that the other person is going through the worst. This will protect you.

Bad News 
Consider the timing and location. Imagine the other person’s mental state. Choose a comfortable location. Your body language is the most important so communicate care, concern, understanding and empathy.

Think about the timing and the location. Sooner is better. Approach with a compassionate and empathetic mindset. Think about how you would tell this to someone you greatly respected. Be specific about a few points. Look at the behavior, not the person. Facts, not motives. Say how the action, affects you. People remember the beginning and the end so start out on a good foot and end on a good foot. Don’t make someone feel like they did something wrong more than asking for another behavior. Make sure your body language is not telling them that they did something wrong. If they become defensive, say something they did well and maintain a state of goodwill.

First forgive yourself. The graver the offense the more personal touch required. Hear them out and don’t respond to each point. Focus on understanding. Say “I’m very sorry” with full presence and warmth. Be thoughtful, have concern and a sense of personal involvement. Focus on sincerity not on just calming the situation. Show you understand the impact of the mistake and the specific ramifications.

Phone or Email
Be focused and don’t multitask. Do not answer in a warm manner, become warm after they say who it is. In email, put whatever pertains to them first. Perfect is when you have nothing else to subtract. Keep short.

Presenting with Charisma
Understand that you are presenting to a distracted audience. You are an entertainer. Have one crystal clear idea and only three-five supporting points. These should be entertaining stories, fascinating facts, compelling stats, great metaphors, examples, or an analogy. It is all about them so keep short and ask yourself what each sentence is adding. Rehearse, record, and watch out for irritants. Maintain a wide stance and do not use a podium. Imagine this as a fireside chat. Maintain eye contact for two seconds with each person. Project warmth and imagine everyone has angel wings. The brain will go into hyper drive so pause, breathe, and slow down. This shows more thought. Pauses are dramatic. At the end, pause and say thank you.
If you make a mistake run through these steps. Check for comfort. Take a deep breath. Destigmatize. Detach negative thoughts. Think about things you are grateful for. Imagine a hug from someone you trust. This should happen very quickly with practice. On speech day, focus on them. Arrive early and visualize. Go to a quiet room and visualize for confidence and warmth. Pause before you start. Expect things to go wrong. Pause and slow down. Don’t run off at the end.

Charisma in a Crisis
Remain calm and check your physiology. Handle negativity and try rewriting reality. Express high expectations of others and articulate a clear vision. Be bold and decisive.

The Charismatic Life
If you are charismatic, you will be a target for envy. Reflect glory by highlighting the contributions of others. Make people feel a sense of ownership for your success. In order to prevent envy, you must be sincere or else it won’t work. You can use the JALIR technique on a specific person. People may give up too much sometimes. When they start, you can insert a me too story. If it is too late, put their revelation in the whole context. Make them feel admired for sharing. You will be held to a higher standard so show your humanity. Practice in low stakes situations. There is a risk of people following you even when you are incorrect so know when to dial back.

JALIR Techique
Justification Create excuse for contacting
Appreciation – Thank person for what they have done
Lay It Out – Specify exactly how they helped you
Impact – Let them know the positive impact they had
Responsibility – This may help them feel invested in your success

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