Charisma and Appeal
This is a quite literal book title translation of one of the books I published on Amazon. The original is written in German. Now I decided to publish some of it in English here on Medium.
The book has gotten great reviews and I consider it a success, given that this was the first book I ever published. I hope you will enjoy the read as well. If this article gets people interested, then I’ll think about putting more content from my German books up here. It feels more engaging and interesting than translating the book itself and putting it up on Amazon again in English.
Charisma is not magic
It’s simple human psychology. And it works. So what exactly is charisma? The word itself has its roots in the Greek language, where it means “a gift, given out of benevolence”. It was seen as a rare gift, given by the gods to few chosen people. Those people would then use this gift to wrap others around their fingers and win them for their every cause.
So is charisma something genetic, out of our control? Fortunately for us, that’s not true. Even today, many people don’t really understand why we work in the ways we do. Love is an emotional roller coaster, surrounded by feelings that twist and turn our life around at every step. Many people don’t even realize what’s going on inside us. Some don’t even care, as long as “love works”.
The very same happens with charisma. We look someone into the eyes and immediately make the critical decision whether we like that person or not. And through all that, we naively think we’re in total control of the situation. But it’s not our consciousness making that call — it’s our hormonal balance and feelings, being based on a complex biological system.
Even though our appearance has some influence on the outcome of that decision, it’s not the sole factor. Using the right signals, even an otherwise unsympathetic person can cast a spell on us, outright motivating us to follow their lead. That makes charisma an important skill for entrepreneurs and leaders. There are 3 core aspects of charisma that have been identified in people who do have good charisma:
- Charismatic people are prone to express their feelings openly — they are more emotional.
- Charismatic people can cause such emotions in others — they appeal to empathy in others.
- Charismatic people are resistant against the influence of other charismatic people — they are difficult to be manipulated themselves.
In my book, I use the American actor Michael Clarke Duncan as an example. He played the convict John Coffin in the movie “The green mile”.
The power of empathy
The character John Coffin was imprisoned and sentenced to death for the accused murder of two little girls. But during the movie, he shows a mentality similar to that of a little child. He cries, he is afraid of the dark and he even befriends a little mouse that shares his cell. The movie strongly implies his innocence, but it is never fully revealed. I’m sure we all came to the conclusion that he didn’t murder anyone, appearing more like a reincarnation of Jesus Christ with his healing abilities.
His death sentence felt like pure injustice. He cried like a little boy, accepting his inevitable fate. And for us in front of the TV screens, this was gut-wrenching. Warden Paul Edgecomb — played by Tom Hanks — witnessed his incredible healing abilities first hand and yet was unwilling or unable to stop the execution.
If you cried or just felt really sad while watching The green Mile, congratulations, your instincts took over control and awoke your empathy. Empathy is a strong emotional tool that allows us to put ourselves into someone’s shoes without the need to have made similar experiences ourselves.
Michael Clarke Duncan won multiple awards for his outstanding performance and was nominated for many more. We have difficulties sharing our emotions openly. Mainly because of social stigma. So we want to present ourselves as strong and independent in front of others. We often not only lie to others for that, but also to ourselves.
Empathy does not only work with negative feelings
Positive emotions like joy and desire can also appeal to our empathy. That’s why a heartfelt smile has all these positive effects on others and how we feel ourselves.
This ability is given to each one of us at birth. Babies use it to tell their parents about their needs early on — they cry and laugh to communicate with us. Would our parents not react to these signals, our survival would be at stakes. And think about it, little babies and toddlers are often charismatic as hell. Even in their less glorious moments, they always manage to put a smile on our faces.
So we all do have the intrinsic ability to use charisma. It’s just that some people discover its effect early on and start using it deliberately, while others communicate differently and kind of neglect their charisma skill over time. The same way some people discover a passion for art or singing early on and start honing their skills.
So how do you use it?
The most important step is to accept yourself. I know from experience that a lack of charisma is closely connected to a lack of self-confidence.
Rule №1: Accept yourself the way you are.
You probably heard this so often already. But it’s true. Stop listening to those who put you down and start realizing your potential. You need to regain your confidence. If you look at someone on the street whom you find attractive, but you only draw from negative experiences, then you will subconsciously express this projection of your disdain and as a result leave a negative impression.
But if you already know that this person will like you and present a joyful smile, then that will resonate in a positive way. You need to learn to look past negative experiences like bullying, shaming and whatever else might have hurt you. Believe me, I was there. I couldn’t go outside without staring at the ground, just to avoid looking into anyone’s eyes.
Rule №2: Don’t take criticism the wrong way.
Would you have criticized me ten years ago, I would have felt utterly embarrassed, tried to justify my behavior and seek validation that the fault does not lie with me. That’s proof of inner insecurity. I thought no one would be able to look past my reaction, but it turned out that I was the only one not seeing how obviously I acted.
Now I take all criticism as a good means of growing and improving myself. I will actively engage with you in how I screwed up and what I can do to be better in future. Some people will simply criticize you for the pleasure of being mean. If that’s the case, I no longer take offense either — I pity them for having the same self esteem issues I had in the past. They try to make you feel worse to feel a little bit better about themselves. Just ignore it.
Rule №3: Learn all you can about nonverbal and verbal communication.
In my book, I go into detail about these two concepts and work through a wide array of processes and uses with the reader, but I need to keep this article somewhat brief. There are many good sources out there to learn about verbal and nonverbal communication.
In summary, these are the open and hidden signals you send to people around you every day, during every single social interaction. The way you move your arms, the expression of your face, whether you curl your lips, whether you stare or avoid eye contact. Even if you don’t do these things consciously, the people around you will notice them (often also subconsciously) and their brain will tell them exactly what to think about you.
This means, if you learn to send only the signals you want to send, then people will only think of you the way that you intended.
A really interesting English Youtube Video of Vanessa Van Edwards can give you an insight in how body language works. In this case, she’s showing how to read female body language. She has more videos up, all explaining the obvious and hidden signals we send out daily. I recommend all of her content.
In order to build up your charisma, you need to work on your self-esteem. Once you can act with confidence, you just need to learn about the body language we all listen to subconsciously. We think we are in control, but we do so many things without even realizing it; these things can open up a whole new level of targeted communication.
Do you think Elon Musk is charismatic? I do. Many think of him as “a cool guy” and “down to earth”. If you check the points of this article and look at interviews with him, you’ll notice that he hits all check marks. He’s not charismatic because he’s attractive. It’s the other way around. Charisma makes him more attractive.
Again, my book goes into so much more detail that I can’t just fit into this single article. I had to skip a lot of good stuff. But if you are interested in hearing more, then I will share more.
Anyways, thank you for reading. Have a great day. And stay safe with the current virus outbreak.