Social Psychology

The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 May, 2012, 12:00am

The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism
by Olivia Fox Cabane
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Charisma is an exceptionally powerful trait, according to 'charisma coach' Olivia Fox Cabane. 'Charismatic people seem to lead charmed lives: they have more romantic options, they make more money, and they experience less stress,' she writes. ' Like it or not, charisma can make the world go round - it makes people want to do what you want them to do.'

Cabane makes charisma sound like a magical superpower. Still, she insists, anyone can gain it. 'Contrary to popular belief, people are not simply born charismatic ... If charisma were an inherent attribute, charismatic people would always be captivating, and that's just not the case,' she writes. Marilyn Monroe could switch off her charisma like flipping a switch and go unremarked. To switch it back on, Monroe just tweaked her body language, striking a pose.

Because charisma is fluid, you can boost how much you display it. For example, Cabane suggests, think of a time when you felt supremely confident - remember how wowed people were. The episode proved you can exude charisma.

Like many other social skills, charismatic traits are learned early in life. Through application, the behaviours grow instinctive, says Cabane, who identifies late Apple boss Steve Jobs as someone who gradually won poise and warmth. 'I am a socially inept, awkward introvert. Humans are not my thing. That's the reason I'm perfect for teaching charisma - I had to learn it,' the Californian consultant told Business Journal in a March 30, 2012, report.

Cabane has lectured at top US universities and the United Nations. As an executive coach to Fortune 500 companies, her clients include Google, Deloitte, and Citigroup. Despite her credentials, her advice is grounded in a simple formula. Charisma consists of three things: warmth, power and presence.

'Presence is the single most requested aspect of charisma when I'm coaching executives. They want to increase their executive presence or boardroom presence. And they're right to focus on it: presence turns out to be the real core component of charisma, the foundation upon which all else is built. When you're with a charismatic master - take Bill Clinton - you not only feel his power and a sense of warm engagement, you also feel he's completely here with you, in this moment. Present,' she writes, and presents exercises designed to help you shine like the former president.

For example, before you speak, pause for two full seconds. Also, lower your intonation at the end of each sentence. Meanwhile, increase eye contact in a warm way. No driller stares. But take up more space. Think gorilla - puff up your chest and resist the urge to nod because nodding makes you look needy, according to Cabane.

Her case that charisma is more than a sixth sense is persuasive. Likewise, her advice seems sane. So, resist the temptation to write off the guide as 'so Californian'. Cabane talks sense.