The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism

The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism

by Olivia Fox Cabane

This is one of the most practical books we ever read. It contains over 50 practical actions you can apply to your life. Each action is meant to help you become more charismatic in different situations and from different perspectives.

It has great pieces of advice on how to be charismatic, what to avoid to keep your charisma, how to give presentations, how to improve your body language, and much more. Take this book slowly to absorb all the advice, each piece is valuable.

Summary Notes

Charisma demystified

Charisma is not something we are born with. It’s something that can be learned. Attractive people are usually more charismatic, however, charisma does not depend on attractiveness. It doesn’t matter if you are extraverted or introverted, if you are attractive or not—you can be charismatic.

You can become charismatic by applying different techniques to your life. You don’t have to change yourself. You don’t have to become someone else. These techniques are simple and everyone can use them.

There are three elements of charisma:

  • Presence
  • Power
  • Warmth

Throughout this book, there will be many methods to increase your charisma. Practice them, and you will see the difference.

Actions to take

The charismatic behaviors

The first element of being charismatic is being present. It’s not as easy to be present as it sounds. However, like every skill, this one can be learned. By being present, you will stand out of the crowd, and you will be memorable. Being fully present during a five-minute conversation is much better than being partially present during a one-hour conversation.

The two other elements of being charismatic are power and warmth. To display these two elements, you must show charismatic body language. As we are not able to constantly control every single muscle, we cannot really fake it. Instead, we must use our imagination. Our mind cannot tell the difference between reality and imagination. When we watch a horror movie, we know that it is just a movie, and the people are just actors. Yet, we feel fear and emotion.

In the same way, just by using our imagination, we can show that we have power, and we are warm.

Actions to take

The obstacles to presence, power, and warmth

Your charisma can be reduced if you feel physical or mental discomfort.

For example, when you are wearing a black suit in the sun, it’s very hot for you. Other people will see your discomfort. The best way to prevent this type of obstacle is to always take care of your physical comfort. Always choose a good location for meetings, dress in comfortable clothes, and so on. If you realize that something makes you uncomfortable, it’s important to take action.

The most common mental discomfort comes from anxiety caused by uncertainty. If we are not comfortable with uncertainty, we may get anxiety, which will impact our charisma. That’s why it’s important to learn how to handle such situations. Responsibility transfer is a great method to reduce this discomfort.

Actions to take

Overcoming the obstacles

There are three practical steps to overcome obstacles in the way of being charismatic. Putting them together will help you to overcome the most common charisma killers, such as self-doubt, self-criticism, and dissatisfaction caused by comparison.

To become charismatic, you must learn how to deal with the number one killer—internal discomfort. In order to do this, there is a three-step process: destigmatize the discomfort, neutralize the negative thoughts, and rewrite your perception of reality.

When you are more advanced, try to get more comfortable with discomfort. You cannot eliminate the feeling of discomfort, and you cannot fight it, so having the skill to dive deep into the feeling and be comfortable with it is the best way to cope.

Actions to take

Creating charismatic mental states

When you overcome the obstacles to being charismatic, the next step is to create a charismatic mental state. The best-known method to do so is visualization. It’s a common practice used by many athletes and actors for better performance in their specialties. Science shows that our brain sees no difference between what’s real and what we imagine ourselves. By simply visualizing something, we can make it real for our brain. For example, when we visualize being charismatic, our brain will perceive it as reality, and it will be projected externally by our body.

Visualization is so powerful that it’s recommended to practice it before everything that requires you to be more charismatic, or in a certain mental state. It works like a miracle before presentations, meetings, or even before writing an email or article. It allows you to get into a good emotional state so that the right words flow.

Did you know that a 20-second hug can reduce your anxiety significantly? And you can have the same results just by imagining the hug.

In his famous book Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill talks about his daily practice of visualizing his nine famous counselors. He used them to solve difficult problems for himself and his clients. The results were astonishing. You could choose your counselor to represent complete self-confidence, warmth, or caring.

Actions to take

Gratitude, goodwill, and compassion

As we said before, warmth is a very important element of charisma. Many people don’t really know what warmth feels like, even though each of us can experience this feeling.

There are three elements to gain more warmth: gratitude, goodwill, and compassion. Each of these components can be improved by doing the following exercises.

Self-compassion is how much warmth we give ourselves, especially when we are going through a difficult time. You might have high self-confidence, and also moderate self-esteem, but if you don’t have self-compassion, you will not be very charismatic. It’s simply difficult to show warmth to others if you don’t first show it to yourself.

Actions to take

Using your body to affect your mind

The mind controls the body, but the reverse is also true. Your body posture may control your mind. Psychology researchers from Harvard and Columbia proved that strong and confident body postures produce a biochemical reaction that makes people feel more confident.

Actions to take

Different charisma styles

You can say that the Dalai Lama and Madonna are very charismatic people. However, the way in which they are charismatic is completely different. You too, depending on your needs, can learn to be charismatic in different ways.

There are many different styles, but the following four are the most practical.

Focus charisma: A good example of people that are charismatic in this way are Elon Musk and Bill Gates. The foundation of this is their presence.

Visionary charisma: Famous people with this type of charisma are Steve Jobs and Martin Luther King Jr. This charisma style is based on power. The vision must include a certain amount of nobility and altruism. Your vision is what matters most here, and appearance is not so important.

Kindness charisma: A famous person with this type of charisma is the Dalai Lama. Warmth is the foundation of this style of charisma. It comes entirely from body language, especially the face and eyes.

Authority charisma: This is the most powerful charisma style. It can be used for good or for bad (like Stalin or Mussolini). It’s mostly based on the perception of power—that the person is able to affect the world. Clothing is one of the most important elements of being charismatic in this way. It is similar to your body language, and how other people react towards you.

You might use different charisma styles depending on the situation, your personality, and your goals. There is no one charisma style that is universal. It’s important that you feel comfortable with the charisma style you choose, and you don’t force yourself to do something that’s very unnatural to you.

Actions to take

Charismatic first impression

Studies show, that the first impression is extremely important and people judge you on it much more than you may think. Studies also show that the first impression is correct in around 90% of cases! This means that if you see someone in a picture, the first impression you have about this person will most likely be the same as if you had known the person for a year.

That’s why it’s so important to make a fantastic first impression. How do you do it? First of all, follow this principle: people like people who are like them. And to be like another person, dress like the person. If you want to impress a hippy person, dress like a hippy person.

Actions to take

Speaking and listening with charisma

The number one human interaction skill that CEOs want to improve is active listening. Through active listening, you can make people feel heard and understood without saying a word. There are a few tricks that will make you a master listener. Check them out below.

People have the ability to connect feelings with places, people, and situations very quickly. They may not remember what they talked to you about, but they will remember how they felt with you. Charismatic speaking is about making other people feel good around you.

In order to be more charismatic in this sense, you can improve a few things. One of them is accepting compliments correctly. For example, if someone compliments you, and you say, “Oh, that’s nothing…”, you send a signal to the other person that they complimented you incorrectly. Read below to find a better way of accepting compliments.

The second way to be more charismatic while speaking is by talking in a visual way. If I tell you how many people die due to smoking, you will probably forget it in three weeks. However, if I tell you that every day as many people as can fit in three Boeing 737s die from smoking, then you will have a clear picture in your head. Charismatic leaders speak in visual ways more than non-charismatic ones. When we speak, our brain translates the words into an image. Images are the natural language of our brains, so why not speak in this language directly?

One way to talk in a more visual manner is to use metaphors. Present what you want to say in a way that your listeners are familiar with.

The next element is voice fluctuation. The amount of voice fluctuation is one of the main predictors of sales via phone call. In one experiment, a professor that used more body gestures and better voice fluctuation was rated much more highly in almost every aspect by his students.

Actions to take

Charismatic body language

Studies show that positive body language is far more important than our words. Delivering a bad message with good body language is perceived to be better than delivering a good message with bad body language.

As a leader, your body language is very important because your emotions are contagious. Everything that you show will be felt by other people. Humans have the ability to mirror the emotions of others.

We like and we trust people that are more like us, people that have more in common with us. That’s why a good technique to make people like us and trust us is mirroring, also known as mimicking. It’s about making small subtle moves to copy the other person.

When it comes to body language, also think about personal space. Once you cross into the other person’s space, they may connect negative feelings with you. Ensure you respect personal space. Also, when sitting during negotiations, avoid sitting in the same way as the other person. The best position would be next to them, or at a 90-degree angle.

The best way to project power through body language is to take up a lot of space. For example, walking straight down a path and expecting others to move aside. Also, making a lot of small movements decreases your charisma. It’s better if you are calm and still and your posture is like a queen or king.

Actions to take

Difficult situations

Sometimes, there are uncommon situations that require special tactics in order to be charismatic. Those situations are, for example, dealing with difficult people or delivering bad news or criticism. Read below to find out how to stay charismatic and make people like you even more, despite these inconvenient circumstances.

Actions to take

Presenting with charisma

Public speaking engages several charisma styles. Read below for more details on how to use them. The following recommendations work well for large and small groups of people.

Actions to take

Charisma in a crisis

In times of crisis, people are starving for charisma and that’s why it’s a great time to gain charisma points. Crisis puts leaders in the spotlight and people are watching their every move.

Actions to take

The charismatic life

Good charisma can also create problems. Each charisma type has its own downsides, and it’s good to learn how to deal with them.

For example, when people start noticing that you are successful, there will be jealous people that will speak badly about you and try to get you down. This happens because those people are no longer in the spotlight, and they feel they also deserve admiration.

A great way to deal with it is to give other people a sense of ownership for your success. Make them feel that you are successful because of their input. This will make them care about you more, and be proud of you. There is a framework called JALIR, that will help you to do this.

When you are constantly in the spotlight (when you are a leader, a CEO, or a star), it can be very difficult to handle all the attention you get. Trying to look very powerful every single moment might not be as effective as showing your vulnerability. Yes, that’s right. Leaders that know when to be vulnerable can become very charismatic.

Actions to take

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