Becoming Charismatic

15.08.2016 |

Episode #8 of the course Attraction science by Jake Teeny


Have you ever met someone, who, within only a few moments of conversation, you liked immediately? There was just something about them…but whatever it was, you couldn’t help feeling awed by little more than their presence.

Charisma is the quality of an individual who is capable of influencing or attracting large varieties of people. For example, research shows people are happier around charismatic friends, and employees rate their work environments more positively under charismatic bosses.

Needless to say then, being charismatic does wonders for your attractiveness. But what exactly makes a person charismatic?

Frankly, the research is relatively underdeveloped on this topic; however, there are a few general characteristics that have been ascribed to charismatic people:

1) they speak with vocal variety (i.e., they use speech inflection),
2) they tend to maintain eye contact while also keeping a relaxed posture,
And 3) they often have very animated facial expressions.

To a recipient of the charismatic person’s attention, these various traits exhibit engagement with the person, inspiring a sense of “specialness” in the recipient. But rather than trying to juggle all of those qualities on the fly, here’s a simple trick to simulate charisma: ask questions.

Research shows that on average, 30–40% of everyday speech is used to communicate information about ourselves and our relationships, with about 80% of social media posts simply announcing one’s personal experiences. When researchers put participants in brain scanners and have them disclose information about themselves, the reward centers in the brain (i.e., the same areas activated in eating or having sex) light up.

That is, simply getting people to reveal information about themselves makes them feel intrinsically happier; however, rather than attributing this emotional boost to their brain’s neurochemistry, they will instead attribute it to the “charisma” of the person in front of them.

Although simply asking questions (and being engaged when listening to the other’s answers) can increase perceptions of charisma, so, too, will the speed with which you provide your own answers to questions or remarks.

Research published in 2015 had participants come into the lab and answer 30 general knowledge questions (e.g., “Name a precious gem”). Next, the researchers interviewed friends from the participants’ social networks to see how much they rated the participants as charismatic.

And as the research revealed, the faster that participants had been able to answer the questions (i.e., the quicker they were “on their feet”) the more likely their friends rated them as charismatic.

Impressively, this finding was true above and beyond one’s intelligence or extraversion. Thus, being able to come up with answers, thoughts, and questions on the fly is a definitive quality of charismatic people.

So, the next time you want someone to describe you as charismatic, be sure to ask engaging questions, while providing “speedy” thoughts or witticisms of your own.

Love on the Brain? Crazy for charisma? Here’s some more research on this most sought after personality trait.


Recommended book:

“The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism” by Olivia Fox Cabane


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