Practise striking a pose and start reading works of fiction
If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then so is charisma. It was German sociologist Max Weber who first opined that personal magnetism was not a God-given gift but merely the perception of those around us.
Most introverts will never have the effervescence of Oscar Wilde but, by acting confident and empathising in a genuine fashion, there are ways to make yourself appear more compelling to colleagues.
POWER AND POSTURING
Charismatic people display power, presence and warmth, says Olivia Fox Cabane in The Charisma Myth.
Conveying power can be remarkably simple. An experiment by Harvard and Columbia Business Schools found that holding your body in powerful postures for just two minutes can boost your testosterone by 19 per cent and lower your cortisol, a hormone linked to stress, by 25 per cent. This can be achieved by reclining on your chair, feet on the desk and hands behind your head, or by leaning over your desk with your hands down on the surface and spread wide apart.
Maintaining eye contact is also important, suggests corporate communication consultant Audrey Nelson. Writing in Psychology Today, she cites a study by the University of Miami, which found that 43.4 per cent of our attention diverts to the eyes when we focus on other people. “Investigators found that people who are more dominant break a greater number of mutual gazes than those who are more submissive or in the power-down position,” said Nelson.
If power is too difficult to fake, focus on being present and affable.
The University of Michigan found that those who began university after 2000 have 40 per cent less empathy than their predecessors – so a little can go a long way. Reading literary fiction can help. A study by psychologists at the New School for Social Research found that participants who read works by Chekhov and DeLillo, for example, were much better at reading and measuring other people’s emotions.
Even smiling can have a surprising impact. In The Silent Language of Leaders, Carol Kinsey Gorman cites an experiment by Duke University, which used functional magnetic resonance imaging to show that “the orbitofrontal cortices (a ‘reward centre’ in the brain) were more active when subjects were learning and recalling the names of smiling individuals”.
Introversion can be countered by paying exclusive attention to your colleagues in conversation. You don’t need to say much – even a sincere reaction to what they are saying will engage them and establish a connection.
Nod, ask questions which invite further conversation, and avoid thinking of a response before your colleague has finished speaking. “When someone has spoken, see if you can let your facial expression react first, showing that you’re absorbing what they’ve just said and giving their brilliant statement the consideration it deserves,” advises Fox Cabane. “Only then, after about two seconds, do you answer.”
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