Charisma is a skill you can learn, no matter who you are.
Without charisma, you will most likely go unnoticed, your ideas won’t be heard, and your contributions won’t be recognized. No matter how hard you work or how smart you are, by ignoring charisma or leaving it to chance, you could be selling yourself short.
Your potential may be left unfulfilled while others who get their points across more effectively, get ahead while you watch from the sidelines.
However, contrary to popular belief, charisma is a learned skill that can be trained and developed over time. It isn’t some kind of special talent that lucky people get bestowed upon birth, whilst the rest of us don’t.
Charismatic individuals come in all shapes and sizes — extroverted, introverted, and everything in between. And the good news is that you can be one of them!
Here are three keys to building charisma — even if you’re an introvert.
1. Be fully present for others
Being fully present means giving whoever you are talking to your undivided attention.
In today’s world of constant distractions and social media, truly present people are becoming rare. We seem to be living in a perpetual state of “partial attention.”
This prevents us from focusing on what the other person says to us. The issue with this is that our brains are hard-wired (through evolutionary processes that have ensured our species’ survival) to detect it immediately.
Whether consciously or not, your interlocutor will pick up the cues when you are not actively listening. It will show on your face, most notably in your eyes, as well as your overall expression.
Even when speaking on the phone, people can quickly spot whether or not you’re paying attention. When I was a young, ungrateful student, my parents used to sigh during our weekly phone calls because they could instantly tell I was doing ten other things whilst talking to them. I wasn’t responding the way I normally would, leaving gaps between sentences or not fully addressing the point being discussed.
Being an introvert can work in your favor here, as you are naturally more inclined to listen, rather than interrupt the other person to assert your opinions.
If you feel constantly preoccupied with thoughts flashing across your mind, you need to snap yourself out of this frenzy and refocus on the moment.
Now is the only thing that matters, and that you can control.
As the Buddha said:
“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”
Giving someone your full attention makes them feel valued, special, and appreciated. All of these are deep-seated human needs each of us craves. Conversely, a lack of genuine attention makes people feel undervalued and neglected.
You are much more likely to build strong, supportive relationships by giving people your complete presence — and this will make you come across as more charismatic.
So give others the gift of your full attention. After all, the word “charisma” itself evolved from the Greek kharis,meaningfavor or grace!
How to improve your presence:
Here is a simple, 3-step process to get back into the now. Use these whenever you catch yourself drifting off, not paying attention to the person in front of you.
- Scan your environment. Pause and, ideally, close your eyes for a second. Pay attention to the sounds around you. This will immediately make you aware of your close surroundings.
- Focus on your breath. Take deep, conscious inhales and exhales through your nose. Notice the breath flowing in and out of our nostrils, your chest slowly rising and falling. Pay attention to the rhythm of the breath.
- Feel your toes. If you actively steer your attention to your feet and toes, you will feel more grounded. This makes your mind scan down your body and focus on the sensation of the feet on the ground. Is it cold, warm, neutral? Is it a hard or a soft surface?
Do one or more of the above to quickly get back into the present moment.
2. Develop your warmth and realize your power
Warmth and power are two key factors we judge others on during first encounters.
Once more, our brains are hard-wired to make snap assessments when meeting and interacting with people. Hence the importance of first impressions.
Warmth is the ability to create connections with people, showing benevolence and goodwill towards others. If you genuinely want to help and see others succeed, they will recognize this and perceive you as a warm person.
Empathy is key to coming across as warm. The more you can put yourself in other people’s shoes, the more you can relate to them. The more you relate, the easier it is to build rapport and meaningful relationships.
Power here is not meant in the authoritative, ego-driven sense. Perception of power can come from many sources. If you have specific skills or expertise in an area that can help others do their work or solve problems — then you are in a position of power.
This induces others to respect and value you for your unique skillsets and contributions. It means you can influence outcomes and decisions — with your team at work, amongst your circle of friends, or with your family at the dinner table.
Before being able to influence others though, you need power over yourself first.
You cannot be seen as charismatic if you don’t have control over your own thoughts, emotions, and reactions.
“Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.” — Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
A healthy combination of warmth and power is needed to become a truly charismatic person or leader.
You don’t want to be too likable at the expense of exerting influence over others. Yet, you don’t want to use your power to the point where you lose touch with people and appear arrogant.
How to improve your warmth and power:
First of all, don’t act like someone you are not. Overdoing it may backfire and have the opposite effect than what you intended.
Behind warmth lies authenticity. When engaging in a conversation, think about:
- What is this person feeling right now?
- Why are they behaving this way?
- How can you add value by helping them solve their problem?
If you can become a problem solver, you will increase your warmth factor.
To come across as more powerful, be clear on:
- What are the skills and expertise you possess?
- How do these make a difference to other people?
- How can you influence decisions by asserting those skills?
Sometimes you need to speak up and let your voice be heard, so the world sees the richness of what you can contribute.
Don’t be afraid to display your skills and talents when it makes sense to do so — it will make you seem more assertive, and can open many doors too.
3. Mind your body language
Body language is the cherry on the cake, sitting on top of presence, warmth, and power. It maximizes your charisma.
The way you hold yourself and move around has been proven to influence how others perceive you, but also your own mental state.
In her landmark TED Talk (viewed almost 60 million times!), Amy Cuddy goes as far as suggesting that your body language shapes who you are.
This is because your physiology influences your inner state, which in turn impacts your behavior and how others perceive you. This form of nonverbal communication defines whether other people think of you as charismatic or not.
In her research, Cuddy uncovered that people who posed in certain ways before stressful experiences — such as speaking in public — dramatically improved their stress response and became more confident versions of themselves.
Specific poses, such as stretching your arms out as if you’d just won the 100m dash before a meeting were shown to reduce stress hormone levels. Even doing this sitting down had similar positive effects, according to Amy Cuddy’s study.
By simply switching the way you hold yourself, you may even be able to reverse some negative emotions and turn them into positive ones.
If you are feeling nervous and jittery, taking a few deep diaphragmatic breaths and expanding your arms to the sky may help you regain a sense of composure.
You will feel more confident in tackling whatever is ahead of you — and come across as more charismatic to others as a result.
If you think about it, it’s easy to spot the sad or depressed person in the room. They will most likely be slumped, walking around with their head down, taking shallow breaths as if they were crushed under the weight of some invisible burden. They make themselves feel small by physically closing themselves off from others.
Correct these postures, and arrive at opposite outcomes.
Standing up straight, walking around with your head held up high (not too high), and breathing deeply and calmy will make you a different person. A more composed, centered, and focused person. One that exudes charisma!
This makes sense since your body language is sending signals to those around you. If you don’t display charismatic body language, you won’t exhibit presence, warmth, and power to their full extent.
As Tony Robbins explained it:
“Most people try to change the mind…but when you change the body radically, you change the biochemistry, the state changes, and they make a shift.”
All it takes to make that shift is to start with the body.
How to improve your body language:
The more you practice positive postures, such as breathing deeply, the more you will be in a state of self-confidence and inner calm.
It starts with being self-aware. Every time you are in a conversation with someone, even if in a conference call or on the phone, be mindful of how you are standing.
Are you slouching, your shoulders coming forward? Are you breathing slowly and calmly? Are you maintaining eye contact?
When required, make an effort to get back to a more positive physical state. This will alter your behavior and the way you come across.
The results will follow.
Combine these key elements, and you’ll be on your way to becoming the most charismatic version of yourself:
- Develop your ability to be fully present in the moment, giving others your undivided attention rather than being lost in thought.
- Cultivate your warmth and power, by empathizing with others and showcasing your unique value and contributions.
- Adjust your physical state to shift the mental one and start behaving like a more charismatic person.
When put together, all three create a virtuous circle. Your physical state reinforces your presence, which makes you come across as warm. Vice-versa, being fully present reinforces positive physiology as you tune in to your interlocutor, slow down, and start to breathe.
The impact you can have on others and the world is so much greater when you are perceived as a charismatic person.
Don’t let your natural shyness or reservedness lead you to think you cannot be charismatic, and rob you of this gift.
Introverts may have an advantage over their more expressive, louder counterparts. If you have an expertise or special ability that makes a difference to others, you will be respected and trusted.
Someone who may be better at promoting themselves without delivering on it won’t generate the same level of trust. This negatively impacts others’ perception of them over time, as people uncover the truth hidden behind the mask.
If you were to only take one thing away from this, though, it would be to focus on becoming a better listener.
Because, as Jessica Wildfire put it:
“What people want is someone who listens. Be that.”
So start being a better listener today — and you won’t have to worry about coming across as charismatic all the time.