The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane

Excerpts from The Charisma Myth:

Charisma is the result of specific nonverbal behaviors, not an inherent or magical personal quality. Charismatic individuals choose specific behaviors to make other people feel a certain way. You do not have to be naturally outgoing or attractive to be charismatic. Our body language expresses our mental state whether we like it or not – if your internal state is charismatic, then the right body language will flow forth effortlessly (placebo effect).

Charisma = Power + Warmth + Presence

Power – being perceived as able to effect the world around us. Alpha humans show power (like gorillas) by appearing bigger (claiming more space like feet up on the table).

Warmth – goodwill towards others. Warmth is assessed almost entirely through body language and behavior. It can make people like you, trust you, and want to help you. Goodwill is a part of warmth – wishing others well. Your willingness to focus on others’ well-being is all you need to positively change your body language. Compassion is a core tenet of warmth – you understand how they feel and wish them well. People associate you with whatever feelings you produce in them on a consistent basis.

Presence – Having the moment-to-moment awareness of what’s happening. When you’re not fully present in an interaction, people will see it. So few of us are ever fully present, if you can manage full presence, you’ll make quite an impact. Try to regularly check whether your mind is fully engaged or whether it’s wandering during your next conversation.


Focus Charisma – primary based on a perception of presence. The ability to communicate respect. One of the foundations of charisma is making other people feel good about themselves. To make other people feel their opinions matter. Need to balance focus charisma with warmth.

Visionary Charisma – makes other people feel inspired, it makes us believe. It’s so effective b/c of our natural discomfort with uncertainty. Need the ability to project complete conviction and confidence in a cause. Based on power with some warmth to aide. Steve Jobs didn’t sell computers, he sold the promise of a better world.

Kindness Charisma – primarily based on warmth – connects with people’s hearts, makes them feel welcomed and accepted. Without adding power you’ll come off as overeager to please. Perfect to use when you have to create an emotional bond, make people feel safe, when you have to deliver bad news and deal with difficult people.

Authority Charisma – based on a perception of power, based on body language, appearance, title, and reaction of others. Learn how to take up space with your posture, reduce nonverbal reassurances (such as excessive nodding) and avoid fidgeting, speak less and speak slower, know when to pause between sentences and modulate your intonation. Warmth is necessary to still be likeable. Useful during a crisis and when you need immediate compliance from people.

Choosing the right charisma — based on your personality (what matches your strengths and what feels right), your goals (what you want to achieve), and the situation (what context are you in). The more modes you can master the more versatile you will be. You can experiment in low-stake situations with different charisma styles to expand your comfort zone. In high-stake situations, stick with the behavior and charisma style that’s most natural for you.


Responsibility transfer: Sit down comfortably, close your eyes, relax. Pick Jesus Christ. Imagine lifting the weight of everything you’re concerned about – this day, this meeting, etc – off your shoulders and placing it on the shoulders of whichever entity you’ve chosen. They’re in charge now. You are no longer responsible for the outcome of any of these things.

Getting comfortable with discomfort: delve into those very sensations of discomfort, rather than trying to suppress, ignore, or power through them, your goal is to give your full attention to the very sensations you’d instinctively want to push away. Helps you to come into full presence and gives your mind something to focus on rather than convincing yourself it’s unbearable. Whoever has less endurance for silence loses.

First impression: The key to a fantastic first impression is that people like people who are like them.

Handshake: make sure your right hand is free, avoid holding anything in your right hand, rise if seated, use plenty of eye contact, keep hand perpendicular, open wide the space between your thumb and index finger to get optimal thumb-web contact, try to wrap the finger’s across your partner’s hand as if you were giving a hug.

Break the ice: offer a compliment about what they are wearing. “What’s the story behind it?” Story – has a strong emotional effect on most people – goes to storytelling mode while is positive. Stay on positive topics and bounce back anything you say to keep the spotlight on them for as long as possible (talk to a man about himself, and he will listen for hours), stay away from the I’s and focus on the you’s. Choose metaphors from their fields and stick to their interests.

Graceful exit: Unless you have an official reason, helpful to offer something of value (info, a connection, recognition) – helps to leave the convo on good terms.

Listening: good listeners never ever interrupt, great listeners know to let others interrupt them, master listeners pause before they answer so people feel truly listened to and understood.

Take a compliment: deflecting a compliment sends a message to your admirer that they were wrong to compliment you, so make them feel good about complimenting you and they’ll enjoy feeling good about themselves. “Thank you very much” is enough, absorb the compliment before to pause. Don’t try to impress people, let them impress you and they will love you for it, you don’t need to sound smart, you just need to make them feel smart.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming truly interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” – Dale Carnegie

Get graphic: our brain’s language-processing abilities are much newer and less deeply wired than your visual-processing abilities. Whenever you can, choose to speak in pictures. You’ll have a much greater impact, and your message will be far more memorable.

Charismatic body language: mirroring the others body language can be powerful. Mirror-then-lead is a good strategy to establish comfort & rapport, and then gradually draw them out from their anxious or nervous situation. Eye contact is critical. High-status high-confident body language is characterized by how few movements are made – a level of stillness. 3 major issues: 1. excessive nodding.  2. excessive verbal reassurance – multiple times per sentence is not ok.  3. restless or fidgeting – decreases presence and charisma.  You need to be aware of how you appear to others.

Ask for someone’s opinion – better strategy than “asking for their advice” b/c giving advice feels like more effort, whereas opinion they can just voice their minds.

Phone call: “Is this a good time for you?” regardless of how important the message is. Close you eyes if necessary for a phone call when listening, do not eat or drink, if you hear their phone ring as if he needs to answer it and assure him it’s alright with you if he needs to. TIP – Do not answer the phone in a warm or friendly manner – instead answer crisply and professionally. Then, only after you hear who is calling, let warmth or even enthusiasm pour forth in your voice – makes them feel special.

Charismatic presentation: all about convincing people of something – have one clear message with 3 key supporting points with each point supported by entertaining anecdotes, fascinating facts, compelling stats, great metaphors, examples, analogies.

Transfer the glory – giving people a sense of ownership for your success is a great way to prevent resentment and engender loyalty instead.  Bill Clinton would always everyone for their opinions, listen intently, giving them the feeling they had a hand in making you who you are and responsible for part of your success.


– Lower the intonation of your voice at the end of your sentences.

– Focus on your toes to get you back into the present moment.

– Focus on the color of their eyes when talking to them.

– Reduce how quickly and how often you nod.

– Pause for two full seconds before you speak.

– Treat negative thoughts as graffiti on the wall while you’re walking down a street – not a verdict on what kind of person you are.

– To control anxiousness: a 20-second huge is enough to send oxytocin coursing through your veins, and you can achieve this same effect by just imagining the huge.

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