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How to Develop Charisma — for real.

Why most articles on how to get more charisma will lead you nowhere and what you should do instead.

There is a certain template for writing an article on Charisma. I can see it in my head. I can write it in my sleep. Go ahead and search “how to develop charisma” and click on one. You’ll see some form of the following:

  • A dictionary definition of charisma which will sometimes give a shout out to the original, religious meaning of the word.
  • A few lines about why charisma is important and helpful.
  • If you’re lucky, an inspiring story about how charisma changed a person’s life.
  • Last, but not least, and the reason you came — a list of things you should do to develop charisma.

These articles fail on a several counts.

  • Describing the effects of an intangible skill doesn’t help you develop it. You could read the most detailed, eloquent review of a concert or movie, but that doesn’t give you the ability to be a musician or actor or to conduct or direct the performance.
  • Success stories, while inspirational, don’t reveal the underlying principles of what worked. They reveal what happened to work for that person in that scenario. Unless you have the exact same situation, it’s not going to work for you.
  • Creating an inventory of traits of charismatic people won’t get you there either. You can copy a person all you want, but it doesn’t give you their powers. We all learned this as teenagers as we walked, talked, and dressed like our idols. With apologies to Nike, wearing Air Jordan’s will NOT bring you even one step closer to being like Mike in the ways that it counts.

Let’s look at a few examples of advice on charisma from actual articles to illustrate further.

  1. Be confident and let your body language show it. This is great advice in general, but it won’t make you charismatic. There are plenty of confident jerks running around who are not charismatic so what gives?
  2. Have presence or be in the moment. I like a person who is present just as much as the next guy, but I’m not irresistibly drawn to them. Being present without doing anything else just makes you seem really, really there.
  3. Let’s group a few for brevity’s sake. Dress for success. Ask questions. Make eye contact. No, no and just no. You can do all of these at once and it still won’t generate charisma for you.
  4. Mirror body language. This is my pet peeve. Do you know how most people feel about someone who is “trying” to intentionally and artificially sync with their body language? You are creepy. Or manipulative. Neither are great looks for you.
  5. Show empathy. Now we are getting closer, but I regret to inform you that there are plenty of empathetic people who don’t have charisma. They are just really, really good listeners.

None of the advice above actually reveals the mechanism that generates charisma.

Okay, you are probably thinking, so what? Do you have something better to offer Mr. Smarty Pants? What’s your big revelation?

To better answer your question it is helpful to first ask a related question, which is, “why is charisma so elusive?

Ask 10 people what charisma is and all of them will provide different answers that happen to be like the aforementioned articles on charisma. They will tell you about behaviors or traits of charismatic people or how someone with charisma makes them feel.

No one can seem to put their finger on the actual mechanism that makes a person charismatic.

One reason why charisma is so elusive is it lives in the energy between people — the person with the charisma and the people being affected by it. Also, while you have to do things to have charisma, it is less about the behaviors and more about the proper state of being. You don’t “do” charisma, you “are” charismatic — or you are not. Finally, charisma is all about emotions so this is why the advice about showing empathy actually gets the closest. 

The most important thing is, if you can’t explain the mechanism behind how something works, you can’t get more of it. As I was talking to a coworker around this difficulty of defining charisma, I stumbled onto articulating a practical definition that actually explains how charisma works.

Charisma is the ability to sense, and ultimately deliver, exactly what is most needed from an emotional perspective in a given moment.

JOE KWON

That’s it. That’s the entire game in a nutshell.

If you do this, you will be charismatic to anybody, anytime, anywhere. I call this the Charisma Principle of Harmony.

Let’s break this down.

Imagine you are at a party and it is boring with a capital “B.” Sensing and saying, “this party is dead,” will not make you charismatic. It just makes you as observant as everyone else in the room. However, the person who can bring what is needed to make the party exciting and wonderful will be perceived as charismatic.

Now change scenes to a hospital where a family is waiting to find out the results of a loved one’s operation. Bringing the party is not charismatic. What is? Imagine the uncle or aunt who has the ability to empathize, give compassion and comfort — this person will be perceived as charismatic.

Through these examples you can start to see why charisma is so elusive and hard to define. It is ever-changing based on the needs of others and not just a single skill that a person has. Truly charismatic people carry this state of being into whatever context they find themselves.

Charisma cannot be developed by merely memorizing and replicating a list of traits. Don’t waste your time with that approach.

The good news is once you unwrap what charisma actually is, you can start to get more of it.

If you are curious about all 8 Charisma Principles, I have just released my book, Unlock Your Charisma. The best part is you already have everything you need inside. You just need to unlock it.

Together, let’s explore how to develop more charisma — for real.

Available on Kindle and Apple Books, get the insights you need to become your most charismatic self.

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