Anyone can be appointed to a leadership role — that doesn’t make you a leader, though.
Real leaders have charisma, that irresistible trait that makes others want to follow you.
But if you’re generally a quieter person, don’t worry. Charisma is a learnable trait that you can develop overtime.
Here are some tips that you can adopt to become more charismatic:
1. Remember, you don’t have to be the most attractive person in the room
Yes, we all agree that being attractive certainly has its advantages, but it’s definitely not a requirement.
Winston Churchill wasn’t a sex symbol, but he’s still considered one of the most influential leaders in history.
2. Make people feel like they’re the most intelligent, impressive and fascinating person in the room
To make someone feel as if they’re the only person that matters, do these three things during conversations:
1. Lower the intonation of your voice at the end of sentences.
2. Reduce how quickly and often you nod.
3. Pause for two full seconds before speaking.
3. Your presence should always be present
A study conducted by Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert estimated that 46.9% of the mind is spent “wandering.”
“Being present means simply having a moment-to-moment awareness of what’s happening. It means paying attention to what’s going on rather than being caught up in your thoughts.”
In the middle of a conversation, if your mind is somewhere else, your eyes will glaze over and you’ll start making facial expressions not typical to a person listening. And your companions will notice.
4. Think of something pleasant so you appear to be sincere
Your brain doesn’t know the difference between imagination and reality so when you imagine something pleasant, your body will react in an open, accepting manner and make you appear sincere in real-life situations.
It only takes as little as 17 milliseconds for people to read your face so any slight “split-second micro-expression” has a good chance of being caught.
If there’s an incongruence between our main expression and that micro-expression, people will feel it on a subconscious level: their gut will tell them something’s not quite right.
There’s definitely a clear, visible difference between a social smile and a true smile so think of something pleasant and your smile will be a real one.
5. Make sure you have the right handshake
The right handshake will do more for you than an expensive suit will. Can you imagine someone powerful with a weak, limp, awkward handshake? Probably not.
Here are the worst of them:
1. The Dead Fish. This happens when one hand is extended into another, but there is barely any movement.
2. The Knuckle Cruncher. This happens when there’s too much force. The violator is usually someone who doesn’t know their own strength or someone who is trying to prove that they should be taken seriously.
3. The Dominant. This happens when the hand’s palm is extended down, which symbolises the offender having the “upper hand.” The opposite of this is “The Twisting Dominant,” which is where the hand is normal at first, but then twists to gain the upper hand once contact is made.
4. The two-handed, or the Politician’s Handshake. This happens when the other person uses their free hand to cover the handshake, the other person’s wrist, arm and shoulder.
6. Become an excellent listener by deliberately pausing and asking questions
John F. Kennedy was known as a “superb listener” who made others feel like he was “with them completely.”
When most of us are trying to show that we’re listening, we typically wait for someone to be done speaking before we start. This is not a sufficient method. Instead, ask them questions. If you’re truly not interested, it will show on your face that you’re secretly waiting for your turn to speak.
7. Choose your seat carefully
This decision will influence the outcome of the entire negotiation.
When people sit across from one another with a table separating them, they tend to argue more and speak in shorter sentences. If you want to avoid confrontation, sit next to the person or at a 90-degree angle from them.
Also avoid seating them with their back to an open space, especially if there is a lot of commotion going on behind them.
8. Don’t compare yourself to others
It’s in our nature to compare ourselves to others, but if you’re criticising yourself, “the threat response impairs analytic thinking, creative insight, and problem solving,” says David Rock, the founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute.
This affects us personally, but also affects how others perceive us.
9. Combine your power with warmth to create a full, charismatic package
To show that you’re powerful, you don’t have to physically have great strength — you can achieve this status by maintaining a strong persona, such as displaying intelligence, like Bill Gates, or kindness, like the Dalai Lama.
When you increase your level of power, your charisma level also increases, but it’s best to combine this with warmth so you don’t appear too cold or dictatorial.
10. Don’t let self-doubt affect your persona
In 1978, Georgia State University professors identified that the “imposter syndrome” affected 70% of the population at one point or another.
This will create self-doubt as if you’re just waiting for someone to expose you as a fraud. This kind of effect will make you appear untruthful and unsure of yourself.
11. Make time to warm-up before a big event
When it’s important that you’re charismatic, make sure you fit in a warm-up period that allows you to gradually ramp up to the level you want.
You wouldn’t run a marathon without warming-up or give a speech without practicing so don’t think you can simply be charismatic on the spot. Get in the mental state of warmth and power by taking part in an activity beforehand that makes you happy.
If running calms you, then make time for this or simply listen to your favourite music before an important meeting. Make sure the playlist has songs with themes of self-confidence, warmth, empathy, and patience.
12. Know that their are different styles of charisma
You can choose different styles based on your own personality and situation. Whatever you do, don’t force it or you’ll end up seeming unauthentic.
Here are the different styles:
1. Focus. This style is based on the perception of presence. Adopt this when you want people to feel like they’re the only ones in the room with you.
2. Visionary. This kind of style makes other people feel inspired and appearance matters far less than with any other style.
3. Kindness. This kind of charisma comes from body language and is based mostly on warmth. However, if you don’t combine this with some authoritative skills, you’ll come off as too overeager to please.
4. Authority. This is the most powerful charisma style of them all and those who acquire it are not likeable all the time. We evaluate this power through four indicators: body language, appearance, title and reactions of others.
13. Develop your storytelling skills
Charismatic people can captivate a room with their compelling, hilarious, and all-around captivating stories.
How can you develop your own storytelling skills? Well, as Denise Restauri wrote in Forbes, it’s important to avoid wishy-washy phrases: “Speak with conviction. Use words like ‘I am sure’ vs. tentative words like ‘I think, I hope and I feel.'”
She also recommends using humour — including self-deprecating stories — to break the ice. Truly charismatic leaders can laugh at themselves once in a while.
This is an updated version of an article previously written by Vivian Giang.
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