If you’ve ever wondered why some people are just so damn likeable, and why you’re not… chances are you lack charisma.
Charisma is that mysterious quality that makes a person seem “magnetic.” There’s just something about a charismatic person that makes other people want to be around them. When a charismatic person walks into a room, people literally get drawn into their orbit like a magnet.
Fortunately, charisma is something you learn, not something you’re born with.
In today’s guest post, Roxine Kee explains exactly how you can increase your charisma so that you, too, can become a people magnet.
Roxine is currently a student at Ryerson University, she runs an awesome blog called Defy Gravity, and she has an impressive story that reminds me of my own.
I’ll let her take it from here, but if you’ve ever wished you could be more likeable, get ready to take some notes (and make sure to check out the special bonus she has for you at the end)…
On to you, Roxine!
What if you could meet someone attractive and instantly form a connection with them?
What if you could make someone feel so good about you that they reach out afterwards and say, “Hey, it was really great meeting you… Do you wanna grab coffee?”
What if you could walk into an interviewer’s office… And walk out an hour later with full confidence that you’ll get the job offer?
I definitely agreed with Stefano when he said that being able to approach anyone and strike up a conversation is one of the most valuable skills you can have… But for a long time, I didn’t have the skill nor did I know how.
I used to think that these kinds of experiences were only reserved for the people who were good-looking, rich, or naturally extroverted.
From my experiences, folks who told these stories had always been like that — successful, lucky and attractive.
Even as an introverted and insecure teenager, I envied my classmates who seemed to get along with everyone so well. It seemed like magic that teachers, classmates and even parents, all gave them attention.
And I wanted that. I wanted to “work well with people.”
So when I was 16 years old, I bought Winning with People by John Maxwell — the first book I had ever bought with my own money — and read it in a day. In the book, John described a certain character trait called, “Charisma” that only a special few were born with, that enables them to magnetically attract others to their orbit.
And I knew instantly that this was the trait I lacked.
Looking back, I realized that charisma is the element that made some people popular and others “weird” (I was somewhere in between).
- It was what separated the elected class president from everyone else.
- Today, it is what keeps a lucky few in the centre of the crowd… And the lack of it keeps everyone else on the fringes.
- It makes the difference between nailing a first impression… And being just another face in the crowd.
- And it definitely makes a world of a difference between getting noticed for a job… Or being passed over for someone else.
So, I wanted that. I wanted to be charismatic.
But only after I read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers and learned about deliberate practice, did I convince myself that it was worth give this charisma thing a try, even if I was most definitely not born with it.
So for 2015 I committed to learning one thing: charisma.
(There are a lot of good reasons to focus on one thing at a time… Check out what Stefano has to say about focus here.)
Fast forward to today (November 2016), and I’m awed at the difference that becoming more charismatic has made in my life:
- I landed an internship after a 30-minute interview. This will be my fourth one and I was hit with the stunning realization that I had landed 4 out of the 5 jobs I had ever interviewed for.
- Recently, one of my friends commented, “Wow, when you walk into a room, people notice.” That was honestly the first time I had ever heard that… And it was a huge compliment.
- I reconnected with an old friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in 15 years… And we hit it off just as if we’d never left. The whole interaction was so smooth and the total opposite of awkwardness.
Being charismatic can make difference between awkward small talk and a deep conversation with someone you’d only just met. It can make the difference between getting that “Yes” or being rejected.
So, yes. There is a secret sauce.
There is that “one thing” that provides a little bit of oomph, that makes people pause and take notice, that separates the great’s from the so-so’s.
And fortunately, contrary to what you and I have heard or have been told, charisma (and the art of being a people-person) is a learnable skill. It’s something you can have… Without letting go of your own personality. Having it brings out the best in you… Or at least the best version of who you want to become.
And today, I’m showing you how.
Table of Contents
- The 3 Elements of a Charismatic Person
- 3 Ways You Can Practice Charisma Right Now
- The One Thing I Did that Made Me More Charismatic
Olivia Fox Cabane starts off her book, The Charisma Myth, by talking about two qualities charismatic people have:
- Charismatic people are those who leave us feeling great about ourselves.
- Charismatic people are the ones who are capable and willing to help us.
In her book, Olivia gives the example of two men running for the post of UK Prime Minister: William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli. They both take a young woman out for dinner and afterwards, the woman is asked about her impressions of the two men.
This is what she said: “After dining with Mr. Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest person in all of England. But after dining with Mr. Disraeli, I thought I was the cleverest person in all of England.”
Guess who won the election? It was the one who made people feel smart, funny and interesting — Benjamin Disraeli.
And that, my friend, is the core of charismatic individuals:
Charismatic people leave us feeling great about ourselves. They radiate authority and power… But they also make us feel like they’re on our side.
We can boil down charisma into three qualities: presence, power and warmth.
If presence, authority and warmth are the core elements of charisma then presence is the foundation of it all.
Before we dive into what presence is, here’s an example of what presence isn’t:
Some time ago, I was hanging out with a friend who I hadn’t talked to in a while. Everything was going fine and we were having a good time… Until there was a lull and she pulled up Amazon.com on her laptop and started shopping for face cream.
Now I’m not someone who gets offended easily… But think about it — I hadn’t spent time with her in a while and I was just as busy or busier than she was. And here she was shopping for jar of liquid when I had cleared my schedule just to spend time with her!
I don’t know what you would feel… But it made me feel like I was less significant to her than a jar of face cream.
On the flip side, being present in a place or in a situation leaves the people you are with feeling special, significant and smart.
When you’re fully present in a conversation, you leave people feeling like they are the most important person in the world. And that feeling will stay with them, long after the conversation is over.
There are a lot ways you can practice presence, even if you’re not with people.
One thing you can do is look up from your phone and simply take in everything around you — from the cold in your toes, to the chatter of the lady beside you to the color of the walls on the subway.
It involves getting out of your head and into your surroundings and your situation. Engage with the world around you!
Now, here is a trick Olivia suggestions in her book for getting yourself into the present, while you are with someone and you feel your mind drifting away:
Quickly scan through your whole body, all the way to your toes.
This brings your wandering mind back into your body and reminds you to be in the conversation as it happens.
If you observe a guy’s body language versus a girl’s, it’s quite interesting:
When a guy’s sitting down, he might have his arm draped over the next chair with his legs crossed or in a wide stance. He may even be lazily leaning against the chair.
A girl on the other hand, would probably sit with her hands on her lap or on the table, her legs close together. She might also hunch her shoulders a little bit.
When you take a look at both, it’s easy to tell which one feels more confident by judging who projects more of a confident presence, and it’s usually the guy.
Now I know I’m generalizing here and I don’t want to get into an argument about gender equality… But think about a king or a queen in movies. They have a certain way about them — a walk, a posture, an air of regality.
And that air of confident, quiet power is part of the equation to becoming charismatic.
Now, here are some suggestions for projecting more authority:
- Talk slower. Try this and you’ll see how hard it is to do! You might feel like you’re holding up the conversation or that you’re boring the other person. But, if you do manage to learn this, it gives the impression that you’re thoughtful and that you’re not afraid of anyone interrupting you.
- Move less. Think about kings and queens again — you know that “royal wave” they have?
Contrast that to the excited, awkward little waves we give to our friends or to members of the opposite sex.
No busy, fidgety movements — be slow and deliberate. Take a seat, and just be.
- Take up more space. Olivia uses the term “Big Gorilla” to illustrate this. If you’re the alpha male or the queen bee, you take up more space to show that you’re in charge and comfortable taking charge. Now I’m not saying you should drape yourself over conference chairs when you’re at a job interview, but do be conscious of your posture and the amount of easy confidence you’re projecting.
Now that you know how to be present and bleed power, you have to temper that with warmth, otherwise you’ll risk coming off as cocky, aloof or arrogant (unless that’s what you’re trying to achieve).
To exude warmth, you have to have genuinely good feelings about the person or the situation. It has to be genuine, because people can tell if you really do like them… Or if you’re just tolerating them.
Personally, this element was the hardest for me to master and the reason why I wasn’t charismatic as a child. Although I projected a persona that was smart and confident, I didn’t come off as down-to-earth, relatable or comfortable to be with at the same time.
Here are some things that helped me increase warmth:
- Make people feel comfortable. Respect people’s personal space. You want to lean in a little bit to show that you’re interested but if you sense them backing away, ease up.
- Soften up your eyes. This is the biggest “hack” I use to immediately project warmth. Think about a time when you got pissed at your mom for telling you to clean your room – notice what happened to your gaze. Then think about the first time someone you liked told you they liked you back. That’s a warm gaze.
- Consciously mirror someone’s body language. We tend to like people who are similar to us. And by subtly imitating how someone is sitting or standing, they receive a signal in their brain that you are someone like them, and therefore, trustworthy.
Now, there’s a lot of things to remember… And it can definitely get overwhelming.
This is what was going through my head when I first started out:
Be in the moment.
Soften the eyes.
Take up space.
Stop moving and nodding!
Man, that was like going up on stage without going to any rehearsals!
So, to help you get started, here are 3 ways you can shortcut your road to becoming more charismatic:
1. Observe your charismatic friends.
I have a friend who just magnetically draws people to her. Whether they’re guys or girls, old or young… People just want to be around her.
Many times if the two of us are just standing or talking, I would slowly start noticing one person joining in… Then two. And before you know it, there are ten people, all around us, all giving their thoughts on what we were talking about!
It’s hilarious and annoying at that same time but, there is a benefit to having a friend I can’t have to myself — I get to observe her in her natural habitat, surrounded with people and working the room.
So, with permission from my friend, I started observing her and figuring out why people liked being around her. And that helped me evaluate my own body language and make changes accordingly.
For you, when you observe someone, ask yourself:
- What questions do they ask?
- What’s their demeanor?
- Why is it so easy to talk to them?
- What positive qualities can you adopt?
If you do this enough, you’ll start seeing a pattern. Then you can classify their actions into the three elements of charisma and you’ll know which one you should work on the most!
2. Always have Backpocket Questions.
Asking questions is a practice in presence. You’re showing someone that you’re interested in them (whether romantically or not) and that you want to know more about them. Good questions also lead to a deeper relationship and leave a great impression on the person you just spoke to.
Backpocket Questions are a list of 3-4 questions that you think of beforehand prior to an event. I use this technique for job interviews, business events and simple every day meet-ups with friends or acquaintances.
By preparing Backpocket Questions beforehand, you free up your mind to focus on what the person is saying… Instead of thinking about what you’re going to say next.
Here are is a simple progression you can use to get to know someone at a deeper level… Without coming off as too nosy or as a busy-body:
Ask about Who They Are — Surface level questions that are easy to answer.
- Which program did you graduate from?
- What do you like to do during the weekend?
- How do you and [the person who introduced you] know each other?
Ask about What They Think — Slightly deeper questions that show you’re interested in them.
- What was it like growing up with three brothers?
- What do you think about the dinner?
- Why did you pick X college over the other ones you got accepted to?
Ask about What They Feel — Deep questions that will probably make a person stop and reflect.
- What made you realize you wanted to become a nurse?
- What’s the hardest part about moving out of your parents’ home?
- Why do you want to go to Europe?
Ask about Why They Feel – Really deep questions that people might be uncomfortable answering.
- Why do you feel that way about your mom?
- Why do you regret staying in-town for school?
- Why don’t you like sarcastic people?
(You can also learn more about making meaningful connections in this post.)
3. Master the Storyteller Strategy.
The Storyteller Strategy is a mindset to have when you enter a conversation to tell stories, and not just to relate boring facts. This is an exercise in being charismatic because nailing a funny, emotional or thought-provoking story makes people listen to you in rapt attention. And, depending on how you tell the story, this will increase people’s perception of your power or warmth.
Learn to keep your stories straight and to the point, while being expressive in your words, your hand gestures and your facial expression. Remember: You are relieving the story again so you have to provide context with what you have — your body language and your intonation.
- If it was a happy story, remember the joy you felt at that moment and amp up your energy.
- If it was a scary one, raise and lower your voice as you tell it.
- If it’s a surprising one, punctuate your punch line with, “And you’re never going to believe what happened…”
The art of telling good stories takes practice, but it’s a skill you can take anywhere and make you ooze charisma!
Wow, good job for reading all the way through!
Now, this tells me something about you:
You’re ready for a change and you’re not content to just read…You seem like someone who would actually take the necessary steps to become a more social you!
AND I LOVE THAT.
Because you see, I’ve learned a lot about social skills in the past three years…
But the #1 thing that helped me become more charismatic was practice. Taking action on every single tactic I learned as soon as possible is easily the most important piece of advice I can give.
I know how hard it is to get started… And to encourage you to work on becoming more social, I want to show you how mastering social skills and charisma has netted me huge, real-world pay-offs (if you aren’t convinced already).
After mastering presence, power and warmth to a certain degree, I took those principles and applied them to something every millenial struggles with: finding a good job.
I used these principles to ooze charisma in every step of the job-hunting process:
- When I networked,
- When I wrote my cover letter,
- When I did my interviews,
- All the way to when I finally accepted the job offer!
Now I want to teach the process because it really does help to see a personal case study of how charisma can change your life…
So I set up the whole process into a week-by-week email series on my blog!
The series closes the loop on becoming into a charismatic personality by showing you how to make those internal changes apparent to everyone you meet. You’ll learn:
- How to reach out and build relationships with people who will want to help you however they can… Without being sleazy.
- What to do after you meet a contact… So that they remember you long after your first meeting.
- How to use the Backpocket Questions and The Storyteller Strategy to crush every interview… And have employers fighting to hire you.
Honestly speaking, once you learn charisma, the whole process will be a breeze.
So, head on over to my site, and I’ll get you set up!
Roxine Kee is the brains behind Defy Gravity. After landing four competitive internships (and counting!), transforming herself into a people-person and figuring out what she wants to do with her life, she’s now on a mission to help you achieve success on your own terms.