Charismatic skill building
Some people are like magnets. The world seems to gravitate toward them, and they hold the attention of others authoritatively and effortlessly. Fortunately, it is not as difficult as it may seem to develop charisma of your own.
If you’re hunting for insight on how to be more charismatic, you’ve come to the right place.
Charisma and JFK
You may be wondering why you see the photograph of JFK above. The answer is simple. History records President Kennedy as one as one of America’s most charismatic leaders.
Kennedy was known for his ability to walk into a room and command it instantly. There have been other famous people with this skill, like Elvis Presley, Theodore Roosevelt and Johnny Cash. But JFK’s charisma was off the charts. He comfortably enjoyed the highest approval ratings of any post-WWII president.
So how did he and others like him become so extraordinarily charismatic? Was it purely a function of heredity? Was it mostly a skill that he learned during his upbringing?
Most to the point, is it possible to emulate him in a truly transformative way?
- A working definition of “charismatic”
- The science of charisma based on research
- How the role of heredity impacts charisma
- The important role of mindfulness in charisma
- Specific behaviors that will amplify charisma
- Myths about charisma
- Famous charismatic and charming people
- Resources for being more likable
What is Charisma?
Charisma is the ability to exude a magnetic charm that draws others near and wins their admiration. Being charismatic also means being influential and holding sway over other’s opinions.
Your ability to be charismatic is partly a function of your personality. Some people think of this as a hidden trait, as something mysterious that is gifted to only a select few.
While that may seem true for people who don’t get to “peek behind the curtain”, the truth is that charisma happens because a person wills it.
President Kennedy’s ability to draw people near and inspire didn’t happen by accident. We know definitively that the man was extremely aware of his presence and how others perceived him.
For him, this meant careful consideration of his affect; a 10-dollar psychological term used to describe a person’s outward expression of emotion. It’s a calculated style of personality.
That awareness of affect was empowered by another psychological construct known as mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
There have been more definitions (and books) written about mindfulness than I can shake a stick at. When you boil it all down, mindfulness is nothing more than your ability to live in the here and now.
In other words, it means being in this very moment in time – as in right now.
When employed successfully, mindfulness allows you to clear mental debris from your psyche so that you can be fully present with others.
There’s no “magic” behind mindfulness. Instead, the concept borrows from ancient Buddhist teachings that are firmly embedded in modern day Zen. However, the uses of mindfulness are not limited to meditation. An individual can practice mindfulness in the company of others as well.
How Do Charisma and Mindfulness Relate?
If you want to draw people near with charisma, you’ll need to first master the art of mindfulness. If you think about this for a moment, it makes perfect sense.
How can you tune into others, including all the nuanced thoughts and emotions that lie beneath the surface, in a genuine way if you are mentally distracted? Moreover, how can you dial into your own outward expressions when your thoughts are focused internally?
Your ability to be charismatic is linked to how people perceive you, so mindfulness is the key factor of the equation. When you stop navel-gazing, when you liberate your conscious of cluttered thoughts about yourself, you free yourself to analyze the subtleties of your environment and then leverage that knowledge to your benefit.
Science of Charisma
Research tells us that charisma is an important part of leadership. In the peer-reviewed journal Administrative Science Quarterly, House, Spangler and Woycke (1991) investigated the topic of charisma related to U.S. Presidents.
They discovered that some men may be born with a charismatic gene. While inconclusive, it may suggest that some people are born with the ability to draw others near and win them over.
Aston University also examined the question of heredity and charisma. They discovered that some people have a specific version of a gene that is presumably linked to charisma.
Does this mean that if your grandfather channeled a magnetic vibe, you probably can too? On the flip-side, what if nobody in your family line was particularly charismatic? Does this mean you are doomed?
The honest answer to that question is: no. That’s because there are plenty of men who have taught themselves how to be more likable, charming, and inviting.
Teaching Yourself to Be More Charismatic
Olivia Fox Cabane is the author of the book, The Charisma Myth: How Anybody Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism.
It is her belief that anyone can engage in a specific set of behaviors, empowered by mindfulness, that can make a person more likable.
Before sharing these traits with you, I want to interject that creating personal change takes time.
In other words, while engaging in some or all of the suggestions made below, it’s important that you give yourself permission to be imperfect during the process. You should also consider implementing them piecemeal. In other words, focus on only one suggestion during your next social function or workday. Then rotate through the list.
What follows are 10 tips for becoming more charming, infused with material from Cabane’s book, plus my own research on men who had the “charisma chip” embedded in their persona.
Let’s take a look.
1. Center yourself in the moment
The most important skill you need to strengthen is being present in the moment. In psychology, this is called having a “here and now” approach to life.
A simple way to do this is to close your eyes, clear your mind of extraneous material, and then open your eyes again. Ask yourself, what am I aware of?
Using all five senses (touch, sight, smell, hearing, and taste), focus on the question of what’s happening all around you. Do you see clouds? Do you hear an airplane in the distance? Is the taste of mint in your mouth because you are chewing gum?
By centering yourself in the moment, you engage in the ultimate form of mindfulness. In turn, this allows you to be present for others.
Being in the moment is also a catalyst for the tips below.
2. Visualize yourself as a magnet
Most books and websites will tell you to exude confidence. What they don’t tell you is how to exude confidence when you don’t feel composed.
Part of that “How to be charismatic” question involves visualizing yourself as an attractive man. The trick is to be realistic about what you envision. For example, if you are 5’8, visualize yourself as a person of that height.
As part of your approach, imagine yourself smiling at others. Imagine them willfully gravitating your way. If your goal is to fool yourself into thinking everyone will like you, think again. Attraction doesn’t work that way. But if you believe that some folks will like you, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
To put it another way, if you accept that you are capable of gaining greater admiration from more people—which is true for yourself and everyone else—then you place yourself in the proper mental state for realizing your vision.
3. Smile like you mean it
One of the hallmarks of being more likable and charming is to smile. To keep it real, that advice is right. The issue for most people is to do it in a way that doesn’t come off as fake.
How is this accomplished?
The answer isn’t as complicated as you might think. That’s because the act of smiling can be used as a mindful exercise of your thoughts.
Rather than force yourself to smile, it’s better to focus your attention on something that makes you happy .
An example might be envisioning how a pet expresses himself upon walking through the front door. Does this thought bring joy to your heart and a smile to your face? If the answer is yes, hold that thought and use it as the battery to empower your own self-expressions.
Finally, in this section, I’d like to point out that smiling can occur in more than one form. Specifically, I’m talking about using your eyes to smile.
To do this, squint your eyes a bit as you arch the corners of your mouth upwards. If this doesn’t feel right, use one of your eyes to wink. Just food for thought.
Rene Descartes, the famous seventeenth-century philosopher, is thought to have coined the phrase, You are what you think
To learn more about this concept and how you can change your mental tape, read this page on men and self-confidence.
4. Charismatic Mirror work
Have you ever noticed that charismatic people have excellent body posture? That’s no accident. Charming people have made a mindful choice to stand tall without being rigid. Next time you’re at a party, find someone who seems especially magnetic and pay attention to their body language. They probably aren’t slouching and leaning all the time. Their posture will demonstrate an energetic correctness.
One way to create positive change in this area is to practice in the mirror. That may sound silly, but I’m here to tell you that it’s a proven way get positive karma flowing. I can guarantee that George Clooney has spent hours and hours practicing his postures and expressions in front of the mirror, so there’s truly no shame in the routine.
In psychology, this type of approach is called mirror work. That’s another 10-dollar term used to describe how therapists assist clients to change their self-image.
If you want to learn more about mirror work and this powerful approach to increase self-esteem and attractiveness, I encourage you to pick up a copy of the book: Mirror Work: 21 Days to Heal Your Life by Louise Hay.
There’s a term you don’t often hear. What does self-care mean, anyway? Well, it’s pretty simple.
At its core, self-care is the act of investing in yourself physically, emotionally, and even spiritually. It means liking yourself enough to engage in behaviors that honor your body and mind.
One of the points I stress constantly to the men I provide guidance for is mindfulness of personal appearance. No, I’m not talking about urging a guy to become a raging narcissist.
Instead, I try to help them see the link between likability and self-worth. In fact, that’s why I wrote this men’s grooming guide.
Self-care also means knowing when to tune-out from the world and get proper rest. Because we cannot give what we do not possess, it’s kind of hard to be liked if you’re irritable and crabby.
That’s not to say there won’t be times when this happens. Many of us work too much without a choice otherwise. But if you can ensure that self-care is part of your daily schedule, it will go a long way in helping to upgrade your charisma.
6. Active listening
A term that you may have heard about is active listening. But what does that really mean?
In short, active listening involves the use of body gestures and questions in a way that demonstrates you are tuned in to what the other person is saying.
While I admit this take some practice, it’s not hard to master.
For starters, it helps to occasionally nod or tilt your head when receiving certain information. You can also open your eyes or drop your jaw slightly to show a sense of surprise.
Finally, active listening involves asking clarifying questions. This doesn’t mean you parrot the person. Instead, you inquire about a specific point.
Example: You are giving a presentation to on a new gadget at tradeshow. During your talk, someone raises their hand and begins sharing the difficulty they’ve had with instituting new technologies, like the one you are presenting.
Here, you would allow the person to complete their thought. Then, you might pause for a moment before responding. The very first thing you want to do is acknowledge what they are feeling.
It sounds like it’s been a frustrating experience for you. Let’s see how we can change that.
Notice the pause in the example response. It demonstrates in real time that you are processing and synthesizing what has been shared.
The second aspect in the example offered was reflecting back on what the person is feeling through a statement.
In my experience studying charismatic people, I’ve learned that active listening is a crucial skill set.
Going back to our JFK example man of his station had the power to dismiss a lot of people. But what we saw instead was a person who listened to people’s concerns for the good of the nation.
In general, people tend to like folks that come across and caring and compassionate and without airs.
7. Mimic body language
Mimicking the body language of a person you are conversing with is an extension of active listening, but it deserves its own section.
All this really means is to adopt some mannerisms from your conversation partner. The trick is to do it subtly.
For example, if the woman you are talking to is animated, don’t respond like a stiff board. Instead, mirror her expressive behavior. Examples include hand gestures, raising your chin, etc.
8. Use the person’s name
Be it in a one-on-one situation or in a group, it’s important to use a person’s name during conversation.
By doing so, you send the message that the person matters . It also establishes a personalized approach to sharing information.
You only need to say the name once. Twice if you want to make a point.
Think about it. Don
9. Be witty
Many people confuse being witty with being funny. While there are elements of humor involved with wit, it’s not the entire ballgame.
Part of wit means applying knowledge you have and synthesizing it into the moment through abstract intelligence.
President Kennedy was known for his quick wit, and it was something that often manifested itself in the form of humor.
The best way to bone up on wittiness is to study others who exude charm. I’m including a video with footage of President Kennedy below, recorded two years into his presidency.
Take note of the different ways he shows his wit, using intelligence and humor. It’s a rare look at JFK and definitely informative.
Don’t be afraid to show your feelings. Research has shown people “connect” with others who come off as real and passionate.
Obviously, don’t say anything that will offend. Use common sense as a guide. That shared, if you express yourself as you genuinely are, you’ll be surprised how people are drawn to you like a magnet.
Example: If someone has stunning hazel eyes, compliment them on it with meaning.
Myths About Charisma & Charm
Just for fun, I’m listing several myths about charisma and charm that some people buy into. While it’s not possible to list them all, I’ll share a few of the biggies.
- Only men can be charismatic
- People are born charismatic
- Charismatic people are always super attractive
- You can’t learn how to be charismatic
- Charming and charisma are the same
- Charismatic people are narcissists
- If you are charming, you are also a sociopath
- Only women can be charming.
- One must be an alpha male to be charming
Famous Charismatic Men
- John F. Kennedy
- Ronald Reagan
- Elvis Presley
- Mahatma Gandhi
- Winston Churchill
- Martin Luther King
- Marlon Brando
- Robert Redford
- Chris Evans
- Paul Newman
- Robert F. Kennedy
- Theodore Roosevelt
- Franklin Roosevelt
Summing Things Up
Being more charismatic, charming and likable are three attributes many men pursue. This is particularly true of men who are in leadership positions.
Thanks for stopping by Men’s Culture!
House, Spangler and Woycke (1991). Personality and Charisma in the U.S. Presidency: A Psychological Theory of Leader Effectiveness. Web
Cabane. O. (2013). The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism