5 min read

32 Powerful Lessons On Increasing Charisma

Ever wanted to make a bigger impact at work?
Exude more confidence when going into an important meeting?

We all want to be heard, get our points through, and make a deeper impact on the world around us.

I just read a book on the topic of charisma. It’s a fascinating topic, maybe because…

…everyone knows charisma when they see it, few can accurately define it.

The book is The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane. Cabane means that charisma is a set of behaviors that we can be taught and developed. It is a practical book with ideas, tricks and exercises on ‘how to increase your personal magnetism’.

A big chunk of it goes through potential obstacles for charisma, such as self-doubt, anxiety and negative self-talk.

As it turns out, we need to start with ourselves if we hope to influence others.

Here are my main take-aways and lessons on increasing charisma from the book.

32 Lessons On Increasing Your Charisma

1. Charisma can be taught. According to the author, it is a set of behaviors (conscious and unconscious) that start in your mind.

2. What your mind believes, your body manifests. You cannot fake charisma. Again, charisma starts in your mindset and inner state. The biggest obstacle to charisma is internal discomfort.

3. Micro-expressions rule. Given that language is a new invention, we still pull most of our information from nonverbal cues. It takes 17 ms to read a micro-expression. Since it is impossible to control all our bodily expressions, we need to get our insides right so we put out what we intend to.

4. Three key behaviors. Charisma is made up of three behaviors; Presence, Power and Warmth. Developing charisma means developing these behaviors.

5. Set your intention. Know who you are. Then, decide what you want to accomplish. This is key in knowing which behaviors to focus on.

6. Accessing charisma. You can learn the behaviors to access different types of charisma, but you will probably have a dominant one. Think; Mother Teresa (warmth+presence) or Steve Jobs (presence+power). Obama leads with focus, Clinton with warmth.

7. Balancing charisma. All three behaviors are important. If you are warm with no power, you might be seen as a pleaser or being over-eager. Power without warmth can be conceived as cold and arrogant.

8. Focus on your toes. Presence is key and the foundation behavior. Not many are good at it, so learning to be fully present will make you stand out. My favorite tip from the book is to focus on your toes to become aware of your body before focusing your attention on the other person.

9. Power & warmth. Our reactions to power and warmth are wired deep in our reptilian brain since they previously have enabled our survival. For instance, a powerful person who looks at us warmly probably won’t kill us. Hence, the importance of the two second behaviors.

10. It’s emotional. “Logic makes people think. Emotion makes people act.” (Alan Weiss) Charisma speaks to our emotions and people will associate you with whatever feelings you produce in them on an ongoing basis.

11. Practice visualization. The mind cannot separate imagination from reality, so you can visualize a meeting/party/conversation playing out before it happens. The author says, if there is only ONE thing you take from this book, let cultivating the habit of visualization be it.

12. Leave your comfort zone. Start small. Challenge yourself to talk to the person next to you in line, hold eye contact two seconds longer than what feels comfortable. If you are not used to handling discomfort (which few of us are), internal discomfort displays so much quicker if you encounter an uncomfortable feeling. Learn to get used to it and you will much better tolerate them, and therefore maintain inner balance.

13. Access gratitude. Increase warmth, by accessing gratitude and appreciation. Feeling grateful will make you happier and soften your body. So, make it a habit to count your blessings.

14. Want the best for others. Warmth comes as a result of goodwill and compassion. The author puts it as “Just love as much as you can from wherever you are”. She also writes that goodwill is the ‘charisma safety net’; as long as you can access this state, you have the best chance to get charisma right.

15. See angels. One exercise to increase goodwill toward others is to look at the person you are talking to as wearing invisible angel wings. You’ll experience them as fundamentally good which will change your state, body, and perceived warmth.

16. Be kind to yourself. Practice self-compassion and forgiveness. Metta is the practice of developing kind intentions for all beings. It is a powerful tool to oppose your inner critic. You are exactly where you should be right now.

17. State of your body. Your body easily affects your mind. For instance, it’s difficult to feel depressed when jumping up and down, smiling. One quick fix is to stand up, stretch your hands above your head, inhale deeply, and then relax.

18. First impressions DO last. We are quick to judge someone on their clothing, appearance, confidence – a decision based on hunches and previous references. Most of the time though, we are right. We are then wired to defend that first decision later on. Get your handshake, posture, and first words right.

19. Tribal dressing. People like people similar to them. If you have an important meeting, adjust yourself to it. (Don’t dress like a hippie for an important business meeting.) The color of trust is blue, passion is red. Avoid orange and yellow.

20. Learn to listen. Good listeners never, ever, interrupt. Great listeners allow being interrupted. Master listeners soak in everything and practice silence before talking back. “Presence is the cornerstone of effective listening.”

21. Talk to a movie star. Imagine the person you are talking to is the main character in a movie you are watching. “Don’t impress people. Let them impress you, and they will love you for it”.

22. Don’t use negations. Don’t say “no problem”. You will unconsciously allude to the word ‘problem’ and create a negative feeling. Instead, say, “I’ll take care of it”.

23. Mirroring. Imitating someone’s body language is an easy way to establish rapport. Mirroring creates trust. Slowly follow the other person’s gestures to try it out.

24. Charismatic seating. Sitting opposite to someone can feel confrontational. Choose to sit next to or at a 90-degree angle from each other.

25. Express appreciation. The more you truly appreciate others, the more invested they will feel in your success.

26. Ask for help. The Benjamin Franklin effect stipulates that if someone helps you, they will like you more. “I went out of my way to do something for this person, therefore I must like him.” We rationalize future actions to strengthen our previous decision.

27. Be a gorilla. Increase power by learning to be comfortable with owning the space. Walk tall and own your space. Also, be still; stop nodding and verbally reassuring people.

28. Nonverbal cues trump verbal cues. If congruent, nonverbal cues magnify verbal cues. If incongruent, nonverbal always kills whatever you might say.

29. Storytelling. Connect to your audience through storytelling. Charisma is emotional, so is storytelling. Our brain thinks in pictures – use stories, metaphors, and analogies.

30. Pause. Breathe. Slow down. Lower your voice at the end of a sentence.

31. Hugs. If you feel off track, imagine getting a big hug from someone you trust.

32. Be vulnerable. Dare be human and vulnerable. This will make you more relatable and avoid the risk of alienation (which can be a problem of too much charisma!)