Charisma: what is it and how you can get it.
What is it about some people that makes them have charisma? In other words, what makes them stand out?
Charisma seems a bit of an enigma. It’s a concept we struggle to define. But why?
1. We tend not to think about what we mean by charisma. We may think someone has charisma but we do not ask ourselves why that person stands out.
2. It is just a genuinely difficult concept to define. It means different things to different people.
When we think of charisma, these kind of words tend to spring to mind; appealing, alluring, hypnotic, larger than life, magnetic, mesmerizing, poised.
When I ask my students to sum up charisma, the descriptions people use most is ‘personal magnetism’ and ‘charming’. For me, this sums it up nicely; but still, even these words don’t explain what it actually is that makes some people stand out.
After a quick search of the internet, I came up with this list of charismatic people. Do you agree? Or is it that certain people can seem charismatic to one person and not to another?
Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, George Clooney.
Interestingly, some psychologists believe that charisma could be linked to quick thinking. William Von Hippel of the University of Queensland in Australia was intrigued by why some people exude more charisma than others. He wanted to understand the factors that might drive these differences.
“We decided to take a slightly different approach to the problem by trying to get a handle on what enables charisma,” Von Hippel explains. “When we looked at charismatic leaders, musicians, and other public figures, one thing that stood out is that they are quick on their feet.”
This suggests that mental speed can accurately predict charisma. The researchers concluded that mental speed could help someone to have more control over their physical reactions and help them be seen as charismatic.
Having carefully studied people who I think are charismatic, it seems to me that they all have certain characteristics in common.
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What do charismatic people have in common?
People with charisma tend to project calmness, self-confidence, assertiveness, honesty, authenticity, enthusiasm and, almost always, they have excellent communication skills. These traits are supported by positive body language transmitted through their posture, facial expressions, eye contact and hand movements. Using positive body language, communicating clearly and confidently and being passionate about their views helps them to command a presence. This draws people to them and makes them want to listen.
What can you do to get charisma?
- Be genuine and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. People will respect you for it.
- Think before you speak. Silence is fine when you have nothing worthwhile to say.
- Treat people with respect and make time to listen to their point of view.
- Smile; charismatic people do this naturally.
- Remember names and use them.
- Show energy and enthusiasm, even when you’re not actually interested or you’re tired.
- Be positive, even when the chips are down.
- Support your message with positive body language. Command a presence.
- Prepare properly; visualise yourself being impressive. Psyche yourself up before you next need to display charisma.
Top tip – The next time you see someone with ‘charisma’, stop and think for a moment. Watch the person and try to get to the bottom of what they are doing. I do this every time I see someone who I think has charisma. Once you know the characteristics, you can strive to copy them in your own behaviour.
Fact – Very few ‘charismatic’ people are naturally charismatic. They have to try. The vast majority are just very good actors. They know how to play the part.
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