You know charismatic people when you see them. They look like they have a spotlight on them while everyone else around them fades into a sea of anonymity.
The truth is developing and having charisma is the same as developing and having any other skill. Yes, charisma is a skill, just like walking and speaking a foreign language are skills, and skills are learned.
According to John Antonakis, a professor of organizational behavior at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, “…charisma is all about having learned to signal information in a symbolic, emotional and value-based manner…using verbal…and nonverbal techniques” when communicating with others.
Olivia Fox Cabane, the author of The Charisma Myth, believes that charismatic behavior has three central components or pillars:
- Presence or being “in the moment”
- Cabane encourages people to pay attention to environmental sounds, to your breath and to subtle body sensations (like tingling in your toes) that radiate through your body.
- If/when your attention lapses when speaking with someone, Cabane suggests that you refocus by centering on yourself.
- Power or breaking down your own self-imposed barriers
- Imposter Syndrome comes from being afraid that you’re not worthy of the success you’ve already achieved.
- Cabane encourages people to assure themselves that they do belong and that their skills/passions are both valuable and interesting to others.
- Warmth involves signaling kindness and acceptance towards other people.
- Cabane suggests imaging a person for whom you feel great warmth and affection and then transferring that warmth and affection to the person with whom you’re engaged.
Cabane recognizes that few charismatic people master all three components or pillars of charisma. For examples, she refers to Steve Jobs and Elon Musk as two charismatic men who mastered power and presence but not warmth. She refers to Emilia Clarke of Game of Thrones as a charismatic woman who who mastered warmth and presence but not power.
To develop one’s charisma, Cabane suggests that we practice storytelling since often, the most charismatic among us are great public speakers. She also suggests using facial expressions and gestures that reinforce the story as wellas vocal inflections to frame key storytelling points.
Cabane goes beyond storytelling. “Make people feel they are the only people in the room…who actually matter. By making others feel they are the center of your attention, you automatically make them feel better about themselves and who doesn’t want to be around someone who makes them feel better about themselves?”
And the quickest way to be more engaging with people is to be more likable, according to Cabane. And, being likable takes practice, just as being charismatic does. She suggests saying “yes” to more social invitations, saying “yes” to a public speaking class, saying “yes” to exhibiting your strengths while “leveling up” your weaknesses.
You too can look like you have a spotlight on you…you too can signal information in value-based ways…all it takes is practice.