It’s easy to think of this powerful, magnetic quality as a gift bestowed on a few fortunate people, But with a little practice we can all radiate charisma.
As a shy child, I remember the belly full of butterflies that the thought of speaking up could incite – I never dreamed that one day relishing doing so.
I also remember encounters with charismatic people who could bring me out of my shell.
On weekends I enjoyed my sporting pleasures and got to meet many other competitors, they gave words of advice and had time to talk, they had the power to make it feel as if they were talking directly to me. Later in life, I met these people again, now champions and hosting training classes and always with an audience around them.
So what exactly were those qualities that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up? The word charisma comes from the Greek meaning “Gift of Grace” or “Divine Favour”. But many experts believe charisma is something we can cultivate without divine assistance.
Ronald Riggio, Professor of leadership and organisational psychology at California’s Claremont McKenna College, has identified 6 skills that he believes make up charisma”.
- The ability to express emotions.
- To read emotions in others.
- To regulate and control emotional expressions.
- To express oneself verbally.
- To “read” social situations.
- To understand sophisticated social role-playing skills.
Every expert will concede that some people are naturally better at connecting with others, but with the many studies that have taken place over the years, all show that learning and practice can help us to become better communicators, even the shy ones amongst us.
As we go through life, it can often seem that charisma is for the charmed few, from the popular girls at school, to the person who is the life and soul of the party, or the leader who inspires devotion.
Too often fame and social status can be confused with charisma. Celebrity bewitches us into believing you’ve either got it, or you haven’t. So it is necessary to be in the spotlight to radiate the X factor?
I believe not, Think of charisma as a continuum, There is phoney charismatic leadership, but also leaders who are authentically charismatic – those who really care about their followers.
I would put social entrepreneurs into the authentic category, What fuels them is that they are passionate about what they do and they learn to communicate that passion.
Cultivate your charisma.
- Charisma is about making the other person feel special. try the “flow smile” – instead of quickly grinning at someone, look at their face, appreciate them and let a smile flood over your face.
- Pay complete attention to the other person – avoid letting your eyes flicker around to whom might be standing behind them.
- Put passion in your voice, and be enthusiastic about whatever the person you’re talking to is discussing.
- Don’t forget the subtle details, such as standing too close. Read the person’s body language and try to put them at ease.
- If you’re shy, looking someone in the eye can be vary hard. Practice holding eye contact and keep your expression warm.
Bringing out the best.
But it’s not just about the other person, it’s also about how they make you feel. Charismatic people make you feel like your the most special person in the world.
When I work with clients, on their confidence I talk about how charismatic people turn the spotlight, not on themselves but others, thus they bring out the best in you.
True charismatics are altruistic, there is an unselfishness – they want other people to do well and realise their potential. We gravitate towards these “sunshine” people who enrich our lives.
With all this to remember, let’s not forget to be ourselves, As soon as you stop trying to be someone else and begin to tune in to your own uniqueness you start to generate charisma.
Perhaps my favourite piece of advice comes from “Roald Dahl’s” The Twits:-
“Think good thoughts and they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely“.
We all have bad days, but controlling our negative thoughts and thinking the best, works wonders.
During a recent social encounter, I practised my “flow smile” and deep listening, Smiling at people I know to be habitually grumpy has the best effect, it’s a joy to see them then smile back and become for a moment, a “sunshine person” lighting up the room the darkest of days.