In times of economic uncertainty, it makes absolute sense to draw on every available resource to gain a competitive advantage. Charisma is a resource which is free and can fast-track anyone’s route to success.
There is a multitude of definitions of the term “charisma”. It is essentially about investing others with our own enthusiasm so that they not only feel good about themselves, but also about us.
There is a popular misconception that charisma is an inborn quality rather than one which we can develop, and that it is the preserve of the extrovert. While some individuals do possess innate characteristics of charisma, it is essentially a set of behaviours that we can learn and integrate within our existing personality. We can be an authentic, albeit enhanced version of ourselves irrespective of our personality type.
Over millions of years, our brains have evolved to instinctively seek out others who make us feel safe and who we feel most readily identify with our situation. This need for safety not only relates to our physical security, but also to the protection of our hopes, reputation, ideas and money. Charisma taps into these primeval triggers by allowing us to generate a sense of trust and rapport with others.
Sticks and stones
While the content of what we say clearly goes some way towards achieving these aims, it is by no means the full story. According to Dr Albert Mehrabian, our words convey only about 7 per cent of a communication, our vocal expression 38 per cent, and our body language an incredible 55 per cent. Consequently, our body language needs to be congruent with our words for our message to be remembered and regarded as credible. People are decidedly canny at spotting inauthentic charisma.
Research shows that by managing our thoughts and our posture we can also facilitate a far more charismatic impression. One way of doing this is by assuming a “Power Pose” immediately prior to an important meeting. This involves holding the following posture for a few minutes beforehand:
• Standing tall
• Feet shoulder-width apart
• Hands on your hips
• Looking upwards
The “Power Pose” helps to generate increased energy and confidence during interactions. As such, it represents one technique for engendering credibility with others.
Another is approaching situations that require charisma with the primary aim of learning more about others, and putting them at ease. This can have a profound impact on the overall outcome of such encounters. By actively listening to the other person, not only do we undermine the immediate pressure for us to perform but we also create deeper trust and an opportunity to learn more about that individual, meaning that we present our ideas in ways which are more likely to influence or persuade.
These suggestions can be put into practice very quickly. However, it is important to progress slowly and relative to your individual circumstances (we need only look at the average politician during election time to see the adverse impact of inauthentic “charisma”). This approach will allow you to rehearse and refine your charisma in small increments. The process not only becomes far less daunting but also becomes a fully integrated part of your everyday natural behaviour.
Richard Reid is chief executive and clinical director of Pinnacle Therapy.