We tend to think that charisma is something you’re born with — that Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, and Martin Luther King, Jr., were able to captivate crowds and connect with individuals since they were kids.
If given the right role models, people can learn those behaviours early. For example, Martin Luther King, Jr., grew up with a father who was a preacher and a social activist.
But for others, you need a little more cultivation for your charisma to bloom.
Steve Jobs “came across as bashful and awkward in his earliest presentations,” Cobane says. “Jobs painstakingly worked to increase his level of charisma over the years, and you can see the gradual improvement in his public appearances.”
Charismatic people express their feelings.
“Charismatic individuals express their feelings spontaneously and genuinely,” says Claremont McKenna College psychologist Ronald E. Riggio. “This allows them to affect the moods and emotions of others.”
It’s called emotional contagion, or “the tendency to automatically mimic and synchronise expressions, vocalisations, postures, and movements with those of another person’s, and consequentially, to converge emotionally.”
In other words, charisma is largely a matter of strongly expressing your emotions, so that they can then “transfer” to the person or people you’re talking to.
Charismatic people use words that people can relate to.
In his book “Why Presidents Succeed,” University of California, Davis, psychologist Dean Keith Simonton argues that one thing that separates successful presidents from inconsequential ones is the language they use to connect with people.
It’s about tapping into emotions like hope, hate, love, or greed.
“People don’t have rich [emotional] associations with abstract words like inference, concept, or logic,” he tells the APA Monitor. “‘I feel your pain’ has association, but ‘I can relate to your viewpoint’ doesn’t. The most charismatic presidents reached an emotional connection with people talking not to their brains but to their gut.”
Charismatic people mirror the other person.
Psychologists have found that when two people are getting along, they start to mirror each other’s bodies as a sign of trust and safety. Your date crosses their legs, so do you; you take a sip of water, so do they.
You can make strategic use of that mimicry.
In a 2007 study on negotiations, Columbia University psychologist Adam Galinsky and his colleagues asked one group of participants to mimic their partner’s behaviour and the others to go in cold. The result was shocking: 10 out of 15 negotiations where people mimicked their opponent ended in deals, while only two out of 16 of the negotiations without mimicking were able to close deals.
The scholars’ explanation: Mimicking helps establish a positive relationship, so both parties will be more likely to share information and look for a more mutually beneficial deal.
“Our research suggests that mimicking is one way to facilitate building trust and, consequently, information sharing in a negotiation,” Galinsky and company write. “By creating trust in and soliciting information from their opponent, mimickers bake bigger pies at the bargaining table, and consequently take a larger share of that pie for themselves.”
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