Charisma is a learnt skill, and there are two simple building blocks.
Could you use a little charisma? Charisma goes a long, long way.
It might be nice if people just followed the people with good ideas. It’d probably be great. If we could somehow alter the human DNA to make this happen, I’d be all for it.
But people don’t work like that. People follow alpha-males, visionary women, and tall-people with fabulous hair.
That’s just how it is. So the only question is, have you made charisma part of your tool kit?
If not, you should. And I’m telling you it is something you can learn – or at least cultivate within yourself.
I got a little lucky in life with this one. There have been times when I’ve relied on nothing but charisma.
I certainly didn’t get this far on my looks.
But it wasn’t a god-given gift. It’s something that grew inside of me. And it’s something that I still nurture and tend to. Because I’ve seen how a little bit of charisma can make things flow a little bit more smoothly.
I know charisma doesn’t sound like a skill. It’s not like memory or using chopsticks. But I think it gets a little easier to get your head around when you break it down into its components parts.
Charisma = Power x Empathy
…which ultimately equals wealth, if you want it to.
This is my claim. How does it feel? Ring true for you?
I think the biology of this probably isn’t too complex. When we’ve got a powerful being in our field, it comes into the forefront of our awareness. If the powerful being is friendly, then there might be some benefits flowing through to us. More territory, more berries, left-over mammoth meat.
If the powerful being is an enemy, then we need to be on our guard. We might need to pull some evasive manoeuvres.
So power alone isn’t enough. We need to know if the powerful being is friendly or not. This is where empathy comes in. Empathy is the signal.
If the powerful being has empathy, then you feel that it understands your needs. It can relate to you as a person. It cares about you. It will see when you’re hungry and share some of its mammoth meat with you.
Empathy is the signal and therefore the catalyst that turns power into charisma.
Think about a few public figures through this lends. Like Tony Abbott. I’d say Tony Abbott didn’t have charisma (at least publicly). I’d say he had a lot of power. He was obviously smart, savvy and had an impressive physique. But he seemed to lack empathy. He didn’t quite seem human. He ate a raw onion.
That lack of empathy was a charisma killer.
Malcolm Turnbull seems to have the opposite problem. We like his soft, round edges. But it’s not looking like he can get much done (though they maybe says more about Canberra than him).
Empathy without power = no charisma.
Or take Donald Trump. He carries a huge amount of personal power, but the empathy question is open. If you’re one of his supporters, you hear him speaking your language and being passionate about the things you care about. Huge empathy equals huge charisma.
Outside the stadium rally though, Trump is a guy that says random things, throws aggression around indiscriminately, and seems totally unpredictable.
That’s not just a charisma killer. A powerful but unpredictable person is a genuinely terrifying prospect. It’s a guy with a bazooka walking into a Westfields. It’s why people seem genuinely scared of the idea the Trump might be president.
That’s all at the public level though, and thankfully most of us will never have to engage with the horrors of being famous.
But charisma is at its most effective one on one.
So if you’re looking at Charisma, take a look at these two qualities – power and empathy.
I have seen a few things on the net that say that charisma can be faked – It’s about postures and body language, it’s about deep and attentive listening. It’s about making eye-contact, or being visionary. It’s about making people feel special.
But I would say that all these things are symptoms of power. If you feel powerful within yourself, you are relaxed, you meet people’s eyes because you’re not afraid, and your handshake and posture naturally reflect a sense of inner-confidence. You can look to the future because you feel safe in the here and now.
You are also able to listen deeply and attentively to people because you don’t have anything to prove. You’re not on the defensive, you don’t need to make a point, and so you’re free to be genuinely curious in what the other person is saying.
I just don’t think these things can be faked. There’s too many things to be conscious of, and the human senses are trained to pick out the smallest give-aways. The small nervous dart of the eye, the little stammer in the voice.
There are tricks though that can put you in a powerful state of mind. I’ve written about some of these before. Body-posture poses, affirmations, etc. This stuff is often a case of fake it til you make it. But you still have to make it.
Ultimately, whether we see ourselves as powerful beings is a choice that we make. It’s a choice you can make.
On the empathy side, it’s a lot easier. Just try not to be a dick. Develop a world view that places yourself within a broader world of people all just trying to do the best they can.
You are not the centre of the universe and other people’s lives are just as important as yours.
It’s not so hard.
But my guess is that most people are already across the empathy thing. So give some energy to cultivating a sense of personal power.
You’ll be surprise how far a few displays of empathy and power can take you.
This is the nature of charisma.
Do you agree with me? Does charisma contribute to wealth? Or is it the other way around?
It’s a chicken or egg question.
What do you think?