To start with, what exactly is charisma?
“If any of us could define what charisma actually means, we would make millions. It's the X factor – an unknown quality that makes you likeable, desirable and someone that other people want to spend time with. The Obamas are a great example. Both Barack and Michelle have a kind of appeal that makes you want to spend time with them, but also aspire to be like them.” – William Henderson, etiquette coach & director at The English Manner
“Charisma is very much in the eye of the beholder but, in general, it’s what draws us to people. Being charismatic means that people find you appealing, unselfish and interesting. Confidence can overlap with charisma, and truly charismatic people are comfortable in their own skin as well as comfortable in the company of others. They are cool, unflustered and unfazed.” – Rupert Wesson, director at Debrett’s
And you reckon this can be taught?
“It’s something that’s very difficult to teach, but there are definitely things you can do to appear more charismatic. You need to be able to build relationships with people easily, and this is where good manners, body language and conversational tricks come into play.” – William
“There are lots of qualities that are considered charismatic and most of these can be taught using behavioural and linguistic tricks. Start faking an easy-going appearance and you’ll end up there naturally.” – Rupert
Here’s what William & Rupert say you should work on…
“Charismatic people have good manners. That’s just a fact. It is especially evident when they meet new people. To appear charismatic, always introduce yourself when joining a group and try to take time to remember everyone’s names. If you’ve missed someone, feel free to ask for a name again but do so as soon as possible, ideally at the start of the conversation. Getting it wrong early is okay as then you can get the correction out of the way. Going for a handshake when you first meet someone is also crucial, although in our current climate it’s best to do the elbow bump or wave.” – Rupert
How to start one…
“A charismatic person will be very good at reading body language, and luckily this is something that can be easily learnt. When it comes to approaching someone or engaging them in a conversation, people go either red or green. Green groups of people will naturally have a slight gap between bodies, inviting other people to join. Red groups will subconsciously close these gaps. When it comes to individuals, look at the feet. Green people will have slightly spaced out, open feet, whereas red people will have closed feet that are focused on a specific point. Charismatic people don’t charge up to a person, nor do they hover behind. Be respectful and smile at the person you’re trying to engage with. If they smile back, and are showing green signs, you’re in!” – William
“Someone with charisma will have good eye contact, and will use it to seek an agreement that they can approach or interact with another person. They have an ability to focus all their attention on one person at a time, making them feel at ease and comfortable in their presence. If you’re the person coming into the conversation or starting it, smile and ensure you’re addressing everyone. Don’t apologise for joining a group. A charismatic person knows their worth and is comfortable with that.” – Rupert
How to hold one…
“You need to ensure you’re engaging with that person, or people, and the best way to do this is to focus entirely on them, which means good listening. People like talking about themselves and you should allow someone to take their time when chatting to you. A charismatic person will always ask good questions, but won’t try and pull focus. Try and think of two or three follow-up questions relating to what the person is talking about, but only ask them when there’s a natural opening. Don’t interrupt; allow them to have their moment.” – William
“A charismatic person doesn’t entertain, but they show a marked interest in the other person that is then repaid when it’s their time to lead the conversation. Humans like nothing more than being found interesting. If you make someone feel interesting – by asking great questions, listening to the answer and answering more questions based on the answer – they will instantly feel good about themselves and thus about you.” – Rupert
How to end one…
“When you’re talking to one person, don’t leave them on their own. Try and introduce them to someone else before you go. Find common ground or use an interesting fact about one of the people in the group in order to make an easy introduction.” – William
“Eye contact is so important, especially right now with mask wearing compulsory in the majority of social situations. When you’re meeting someone for the first time, hold eye contact long enough to register what the other person’s eye colour is. This is about half a second longer than you normally would hold it for. When you’re having a conversation with someone, use the 50/70 rule. When you’re speaking, look at the person 50% of the time and when you’re listening, look 70% of the time. This goes back to the idea that charismatic people are excellent listeners. Eye contact confirms that they have your full attention.” – William
“Broadly speaking, eye contact produces neurotransmitters like oxytocin – the relaxing, bonding hormone – in both the speaker and listener. Although I’d always recommend regular eye contact, be aware that everyone has different frameworks. Some people don’t feel as comfortable with it. If someone is actively not looking you in the eye, give them the benefit of the doubt, as they may be nervous. Try and put them at ease by smiling and asking them easy questions. Charismatic people always make another person feel comfortable and can read the signs that show when they’re not.” – Rupert
Posture & behaviour
“The basic principles are shoulders back and stand up straight. When you come into a room, first impressions count. Don’t walk in on your phone or come in looking at the floor. Look interested and ready to engage with people, this means lots of smiling.” – William
“Don’t slouch or be too casual, but try and look relaxed, even if you don’t feel it. Also, be aware of what you do when you’re under pressure or nervous, and then learn to combat that. Like in poker, everyone will have a social tell. Some people put their hand in their pocket, tap their foot, or physically move backwards. Once you know what yours is, you can work to tackle it.” – Rupert
Need to perform in a specific situation?
- Listen and pause before speaking. This shows the other person you’re giving thought to what they’ve said.
- Smile. You can hear a smile even over the phone.
- Slow down when you’re speaking.
- Feel free to clarify what the interviewer has just said, then ask a question relating to it. This shows you've listened well.
- Focus your attention on all the people in the room, not just the person you’re sitting next to.
- Make sure no one is left out or excluded.
- Don’t take your phone; or at least make sure it’s off or on silent. Never leave it on the table as this shows you’re already disengaged.
- Listen to what they have to say and have good follow-up questions. Give them time to talk.
- Bring a gift, especially if you’re staying over.
- Don’t speak for the sake of speaking.
- If you have to tell someone you disagree, always follow up with a solution that bridges the gap between the two opinions.
- Be concise. Think what the most effective way of getting your point across is.
- If you’ve chosen the venue, offer to pay the bill, especially on a first date, as you’re not necessarily aware of the other person’s financial situation.
- Tip the standard 10% and then add more if you’d like to.
- If the tip has been added on and you’re not comfortable with the amount, ask if you could remove it and add your own cash tip instead.
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