Like confidence, I believe that charisma is a choice. I also believe that charisma, like confidence, is not something you are born with – I certainly wasn’t! In primary school I was quite shy, rarely spoke up in class and was actually a bit of a wallflower. In fact, despite the fact that I love performing, running training sessions and speaking in front of an audience, it surprises most people to know that I am naturally an introvert and am generally quite a reserved and private person. However, it has been through years of studying others, attending training courses and developing my own communication skills and self-belief that I have learned tools and techniques to truly connect with people and to help my clients. Whether or not I am charismatic is for others to decide!
So what is charisma and why is it so important?
Charisma, the noun, is described in the Collins dictionary as:
- a special personal quality or power of an individual making him capable of influencing or inspiring large numbers of people;
- a quality inherent in a thing which inspires great enthusiasm and devotion.
Charismatic people are considered to be charming, attractive, magnetic, compelling and captivating and it is these qualities that enable them to influence others. Think of public figures such as Richard Branson, George Clooney, Bill Clinton, Hilary Clinton and Meryl Streep; they all have different occupations, different outlooks and different styles but in their own way they are charming and appealing individuals who have developed the skills to engage and inspire others.
And the great news is that everyone can learn these skills in three easy steps.
1. Your Attitude
Charismatic people generally have an optimistic outlook on life; they see the good in people and are confident in a positive way, without being boastful or egotistical. They exude warmth and enthusiasm and are cheerful, genuine, encouraging, interested in others and honest without being offensive. Aware of how others are feeling, charismatic people will adapt to include them. They treat people as equals, are respectful and don’t judge others. Each interaction is approached with the attitude that the person they are facing is the most fascinating, most important person in the world which makes that individual feel incredibly special. Olivia Fox Cabane, author of The Charisma Myth says that “the secret to great presence is great presence” so aim to be completely present in your interactions.
2. Your Words
Charismatic people don’t feel the need to be speaking all the time and are happy to allow others to be the centre of attention, taking time to learn people’s names and addressing them by name. They are good at small talk by keeping up to date with current events, being interested in others and remembering details which builds trust. They listen attentively and wait for a couple of seconds before answering, demonstrating that they are considering what the person has said before formulating their answer rather than rushing in with the next point they want to make. A charismatic person is good at offering genuine compliments and they know how to accept praise with a simple thank you. They may be witty or humorous, but this is never at the expense of others.
The key point is to focus on the other person, ask questions and listen to what they have to say. As Dale Carnegie famously quoted, “You can make more friends in two months by being interested in other people than in two years of trying to get people interested in you.”
3. Your Body Language
Charismatic people ooze confidence through their body language. They stand tall with shoulders back and head up and they walk with purpose. I was once told to walk into a room as if you are the most loved person on the planet; this is with an inner self-assurance rather than appearing arrogant or cocky. Open gestures, a genuine smile and good eye contact are key to engaging with people and you can also build rapport by subtly mirroring the body language of those you are interacting with. Charismatic people are good at showing their emotions; however, they will mask them when appropriate to display a calm strength, despite what is going on underneath. I have written before about how you can use your body language to not only portray confidence, but to feel more confident as well. Check out Amy Cuddy’s TED talk here for more information.
By embracing a positive attitude, a genuine interest in those around you and using your voice, body and words to communicate confidence, you will be well on your way to developing more charisma. Just be sure to use your charm and influence for good!
Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction.
Mel's book 'The Authority Guide to Pitching Your Business - how to make an impact and be remembered... in under a minute!' is available on Amazon. To find out more go to www.melsherwood.com or follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_