Charisma is a quality we would all like more of and yet have a difficult time defining.
Often described as that “something special,” the “x-factor,” or even simply having “it,” we can typically point to charisma when we see it but find it challenging to put into words.
Charismatic people are certainly likable but their influence runs much deeper. Often described as lighting up any room they enter, charismatic people exude importance and appear to be of a special breed. Interestingly, they have the ability to make those who come into contact with them feel important and special as well.
Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and John F. Kennedy Jr. have all been referred to as charismatic—a quality they used to positively influence others. But you don’t have to be a famous leader to possess it. Most of us can think of people in our own lives who seem to ooze charm. It’s undoubtedly a powerful quality, but what exactly do we mean when we describe people as such?
Charisma and its Benefits
As it turns out, psychologists have been trying to answer this question for decades. According to the American Psychological Association, charisma was first defined as a “gift of grace” in the 19th century by sociologist, Max Weber. Research conducted since those early days suggest that charisma is a set of skills—both social and emotional—one possesses, either innately or through learned behavior, rather than a single key trait.
So why does it matter if we possess charisma anyway? Essentially it boils down to cultivating more genuine, trusting relationships. By allowing ourselves to be more transparent to those around us, we are opening the door to deeper connections. These connections not only benefit our personal relationships, but also have a positive impact on all areas of our life, including work.
7 Ways to Develop Charisma
Developing and strengthening the following skills can help you appear more charismatic in the eyes of others.
1. Go deep. It may feel more comfortable to keep conversation topics light when talking with someone you don’t know very well, but it’s difficult to know who they really are while discussing mundane subjects such as weather or traffic. By sharing personal information (within reason of course), you are able to show your true self, in turn making the other person feel comfortable enough to do the same.
2. Express your feelings. Charismatic people don’t hide from their feelings and they aren’t afraid to express them. By expressing how they feel, they’re acknowledging that they are imperfect, making them appear more authentic and real. But they don’t wallow in their emotions either.
3. Regulate your feelings. Emotions can have both a positive and negative effect on others, which is why charismatic people are careful in how they express and manage their own emotions. They don’t fly off the handles or have spontaneous outbursts. They understand the importance of appropriately and adequately expressing their emotions so as not to make others feel uncomfortable.
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4. Listen to others (and show it). According to a Wall Street Journal article, humans are poor listeners by nature and prefer to do most of the talking. But by practicing active listening, you can make yourself and others feel better about the conversation. Active listening uses both body language and verbal cues to signal genuine interest and concern to the person speaking. Examples of active listening are:
- Sitting close to the speaker
- Leaning forward slightly
- Making eye contact
- Paraphrasing what the speaker said
- Validating the speaker’s thoughts and feelings
- Allowing comfortable silences
5. Call people by name. When you remember and repeat someone’s name in conversation, you are conveying to him or her that he or she is important. Charismatic people do this often when communicating with others, as they want to make them feel special.
Tip: A great way to remember someone’s name is to repeat it back after they introduce themselves.
6. Be interesting and interested. Charismatic people are excellent communicators and storytellers. They speak clearly, altering what they have to say and how they say it so as not to lose the interest of the other person. Reading social cues, such as facial expressions and body language, is vital for keeping the listener engaged.
Just as important (if not more so) is being interested in the other person. Asking questions and bringing up details from previous conversations shows genuine interest and curiosity. It also communicates to the other person that they are being listened to and that what they have to say matters.
7. Be present. Being present is key for cultivating charisma, which means putting away the cell phone and other distractions that pull you out of the moment. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that the mere presence of a cell phone interfered with the connection and quality of conversation between people. The researchers found this to be especially true when personally meaningful topics were discussed.
Fortunately, being present is a skill we can all acquire. Learning to be more present when we communicate with others will not only make us appear more charismatic but also strengthen our relationships.