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How To Be More Charismatic, by Olivia Fox Cabane and Eric Barker

Stashed in: Influence!, Practice, Authenticity, Trust, @bakadesuyo, Awesome, Power!, HBR, Psychology!, Body Language, Self Improvement, Be here now., Lifehacks, Charisma

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Olivia Fox Cabane is the author of The Charisma Myth. She’s lectured on the subject at Harvard, Stanford, Yale, MIT, Google and the United Nations. Eric Barker spoke with her about how charisma works, the science behind it and how anyone can become more influential.

Below I include my favorite parts of their interview. You can read the whole interview here:

In The Charisma Myth, Olivia breaks down charisma into presence, power, and warmth:

When you look at some of the neuroscience studies, such as the Princeton studies on first impressions, power and warmth were actually the first two elements that the human brain evaluates and reacts to. Those are sections of the brain that light up when we are first encountering someone, we evaluate their warmth and their competency, their power. 

So, presence actually is the dimension that underlies both of these. When you think of people describing their experiences, seeing charisma in action, it doesn’t matter whether it’s Bill Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, or the Dali Lama, they often mention this quality. 

They give you the feeling that they’re completely present with you in the moment. Power is not actual power. It’s not the actual power you yield. But it’s our perception of your ability to influence the world around you.

What most people get wrong about charisma:

The most commonly held myth that I encountered when first doing this research was that charisma is an innate quality, that some people have it and some people don’t and whatever you’re born with you’re stuck with.

In fact, charisma’s a quality that fluctuates. It’ll be there one moment and gone the next.

It’s also a very learnable quality. So, a lot of people who are known today as some of the most charismatic people actually learned charisma step by step.

Body language is in fact quite a bit more important than content:

It’s not what you say but how you say it.

One of the things to realize is there is way too much body language to control consciously.

One of my favorite tricks to show people how this works is, if I ask you right now, were you aware of your eyelids fluttering in front of your eyes? ... How about the position of your toes and your feet? ... Have you forgotten your eyelids again?

So that’s how it works. In every minute we have hundreds of thousands of body language signals that are pouring out from us and broadcasting how we’re feeling and thinking to everyone around.

So even when you manage to control your facial expression consciously, sooner or later what’s called a “micro-expression” is going to flash. And even if it’s as fast as 17 milliseconds, people will catch that because that is how fast people read each others’ facial expressions.

So trying to control your facial expressions is not just impossible, it will even backfire. Since the micro-expressions will be incongruent with the main expression, they’ll give the impression that something is not quite right and you can end up seeming fake — which, of course, ruins trust and charisma.

How to improve your body language:

The same way that athletes get themselves “into the zone” you get yourself into a mental zone of whatever body language you want to emanate. And that way it will cascade through your body from whatever mindset that you wanted to get. So it really is mind over matter in the sense that whatever’s in your mind will come out through your body language.

What’s something we can use right now to increase charisma that’s quick and easy?

Turn to presence; because there’s no such thing as too much presence, and presence is always going to improve your charisma immediately.

Right now, focus on the physical sensation in your toes.

Though it may seem slightly quirky it actually is very effective because it forces your brain to sweep your body from head to toe and get you very physically present in the moment.

I've heard this before as "focus on the physical sensation of breathing through your nostrils".

But her explanation of sweeping your body from head to toe is a good one.

I was just reading this last night, , and it's good to see they agree on being present with you or focused on you as a key component of charisma.

It's hard to learn to do that -- it takes lots of practice!

The good news is, every day is an opportunity to practice.

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