Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama have it. Their husbands also have it. The “it” is charisma. Girls and women talk about the power of charisma – how they want it and how they admire it. Like this response from a 17-year-old girl when I asked her why Hillary Clinton and Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, are on her top 10 list of women she admires: “They are charismatic. Who wouldn’t want to look up to a charismatic person?!”
And who wouldn’t want to be charismatic? Synonyms for charisma are alluring, bewitching, captivating, fascinating, charming, enchanting, engaging, magnetic and seductive. Charisma is powerful and charismatic people can make others “drink the Kool-Aid.” When possessed by people like Adolf Hitler and Charles Manson, charisma is dangerously powerful. But when it’s used for good, the Kool-Aid is really sweet.
Let’s do a quick word association. Close your eyes and think of the word Charismatic. What famous people pop into your head? The first five people who pop into my head are Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Gloria Steinem, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. They are followed by Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton, Oprah, Steve Jobs and George Clooney.
This word association led me to this question: Can someone be charismatic to me, but not to you? I thought about the Beatles. When they arrived in the US in 1964, the Beatles were high on the charisma chart for girls, but low for parents. They had a ‘mop-top’ charisma. They were playful, ‘fit together’ and every girl thought I Want To Hold Your Hand was written just for her. The Beatles were mesmerizing to girls, but not so appealing to parents.
Why are some people charismatic and others are not? Are we born charismatic or do we cultivate it? And once you have it, can you lose it?
To dig deeper into the mysteries about charismatic people and to find answers to my questions, I went to Joyce Newman, President of the Newman Group. Joyce leads high level media, speaker and executive presence sessions for top executives, celebrity spokespersons, athletes and authors. Her clients include Booz Allen Hamilton, NARS Cosmetics, Hearst Magazines, Maybelline New York and Skadden, Arps. Joyce helps people find their personal style and tune into and turn on their charisma. Joyce shares her insights on charisma and how to be a charismatic person:
Everyone can be charismatic. We are not born charismatic – we cultivate it in many ways. One way is by observing and learning from people who you think are charismatic. You don’t need to copy them, but learn their secrets, try them on and fine-tune them until they fit you. It’s a trial and error process. Bad news is that once you have your charismatic status, you can lose it. Just look at Mel Gibson and Lindsay Lohan. But here’s the good news – if you lose it, with self awareness and effort, you can regain your charismatic ranking.
Here are 5 important qualities of a charismatic person – how many do you have?
1) Be Self Confident
Like yourself. It’s much easier for others to like you if you like yourself.
Be optimistic. Keep your glass half-full. Be enthusiastic.
Be comfortable with who you are. Be consistent.
Hold your own. Think Sheryl Sandberg – she holds her own in a male dominated geeky world and is still feminine. She knows herself and isn’t trying to be someone else.
Don’t: Trot out all your issues. No one wants to be with Debbie Downer. We all have problems, but compartmentalize them, park them in a corner and bring them out for close friends and family.
2) Tell Great Stories
“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” (Muriel Rukeyser, Poet and Activist)
Speak with conviction. Use words like “I am sure” vs. tentative words like “I think, I hope and I feel.”
Be tuned into humor. Self-deprecating humor can included – it’s ok to tell a story about an embarrassing moment.
Be relevant. Know what’s happening in the world and around you. People want to be with people who are in the know.
Don’t: Confuse humor with bad joke telling. Don’t self-deprecate yourself out of the conversation. Don’t put yourself down so much that it takes away from who you are.
3) Body Speak
Be open and approachable. Gracious and graceful.
Walk up to someone, smile, make eye contact, shake hands. Introduce yourself by saying your name, “Hi, I’m Ann, Ann Roberts.” That way people hear your voice twice.
Own the room when you walk into it. Think President Obama when he walks to the podium. Get your own personal swagger.
Don’t: Overdo it. When you smile, be authentic. If your smile is not in your eyes, people will know you’re faking it.
4) Make The Conversation About The Other Person
Let the world revolve around the person you’re talking to.
Make the person feel like they are the only person on the planet at that time.
Immediately put others at ease and make them feel comfortable with you.
Don’t: Let your ego drive the conversation. We all have egos. If your ego is in overdrive, check it at the door.
5) Be A Good listener
You can’t remember everything, but remembering someone’s name is a biggie. Here’s a trick: When you are introduced to a person, immediately repeat their name. Example: “Amanda, it’s so nice to meet you.”
Listen with interest. Pay attention. Engage. Be empathetic.
Don’t: When you’re talking with someone at an event, do not check your cell phone or look around the room to see if someone more important is there. If you want to find someone more important, make the conversation brief and move on graciously.
Are you charismatic? How many of the 5 qualities do you have? What about your co-workers, boss, spouse, friends and family – how many qualities do they have?
Want to improve your charismatic rank? It’s never too late. Just cultivate it.