Can Charisma Be Learned?

February 18, 2016

Charisma is often misunderstood to be sort of a magical quality that a person is either born with–or not. But controlled laboratory experiments have shown that a person’s level of charisma can be modified by simply incorporating specific charismatic behaviors. Some individuals establish these habits early in life, and probably do so subconsciously, and then polish them over a period of years which makes that easygoing magic look so natural and innate. But then there are others who are mystified by the charismatic ways of some individuals, and seek to learn what the secret is. In her college years, human behavior researcher Vanessa Van Edwards felt she did not have that “It” quality, and sought to learn more about the specific behaviors of exceptionally charismatic people. In the video clip above, Edwards shares what she learned, including five habits of exceptionally charismatic people that can be used if you’re interested in consciously building your charismatic habits.

Specifically, Edwards discusses how magnetism can be created by embracing your imperfections; while advertising every mistake you make is not advisable, be aware that going along with your imperfections can make you be perceived as more likable and relatable. Secondly, make sure not to be a “conversational Narcissist.” Instead of speaking mostly about yourself, approach conversations with the understanding that people are only boring when you fail to view them as interesting. Charismatic people focus on how to ask the most interesting questions rather than what they’re going to say about themselves. Thirdly, Edwards says to gush about people who aren’t present rather than gossip about them to others. She asserts, “When you speak ill of someone, people cannot help but associate those negative traits to you as well as the person you’re talking about.” Another habit is to be expressive with your hands when speaking. Keeping your hands visible is associated with higher feelings of trustworthiness. And lastly, she suggests people gaze deeply into the eyes of others briefly while conversing as it strengthens the sense of connection.

Another expert in the field, charisma coach and author of the book The Charisma Myth is Olivia Fox Cabane. Cabane likewise insists that charisma can be learned, and argues one important behavior to make your best impression is to be fully present during interactions. She states the quickest way to sabotage charisma is to appear inauthentic. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take a whole lot to appear inauthentic. Things like not fully paying attention to the speaker because you’re multitasking or because you’re thinking of how to respond are a couple of examples of how to cut down your level of presence in any interaction. When your mind wanders, your thoughts can cause you to very quickly flash facial expressions that allow the other person to feel your lack of investment in that conversation. Cabane insists she’s found a simple yet effective technique for people to pull themselves back into any conversation should their mind start to wander, and that is to focus on the physical sensation of all your toes. While she acknowledges this practice might seem odd, it works in bringing you back to the here and now.

Being an actor, you’re most likely already a highly charismatic and engaging. But it never hurts to up your game in any particular area–especially the areas that will get you noticed by the right people!