Charisma is a way of being that draws other people to you and makes them want to be around you. Think about the charismatic people in your life. Mentors, friends, or public figures like athletes, actors, and politicians. There is a perception that charisma is something you are born with or without but this isn't entirely true. While charisma come more naturally to some people, it is a set of skills that can be practiced and learned. Here are some of the most important skills to practice yourself or help your child practice to become more charismatic.
People like being around other people that make them feel interesting, funny, and intelligent. Giving someone your undivided attention shows them that you find them likeable and are interested in what they are saying. You can demonstrate attention by using active listening skills like turning your body toward to speaker, nodding, making verbal affirmations, and maintaining eye contact. Eye contact can be tricky to master. Too much eye contact can feel creepy and aggressive, while too little comes off as uninterested. I recommend maintaining eye contact just long enough to allow you to note the eye color of your conversation partner. Then you can look away before returning to offer more eye contact.
Remember that people are attracted to those that make them feel interesting. The balancing act is to offer enough to the conversation to share your knowledge and experience, but listen with equal intensity so that your conversation partner has the same opportunity. It helps if you can steer the conversation toward an area you feel comfortable and confident enough to offer information, but restrain yourself from sounding like a know it all. Don’t be afraid to use humor. Effective humor makes everyone feel good and isn’t at the expense of anyone. Jokes about things that are core to people’s values or out of their control are off limits. This usually includes religion, politics, looks, abilities, family, and ethnicity.
When attempting to open a conversation toward an area within your comfort zone, think of it as creating a larger boat rather than steering the boat you are in. Instead of shifting topics, offer stories and personal anecdotes that add to the conversation. Avoid sounding like a “know it all”. If you catch yourself using words like “actually” and “obviously” pump the brakes and try again. Phrases like these make it sound like anyone who disagrees with your statement is foolish. People don’t like to feel foolish! If you hear yourself correcting someone this is another warning of know-it-all-ism. Instead of correcting, ask clarifying questions and speak from your own experience. Remember to smile! Smiling really is contagious and shows that you are friendly and at ease. The “duchenne smile” is an authentic, whole face smile in both the mouth and eyes.
When you are open and generous it makes people feel safe and comfortable. Sharing your own experiences helps people feel closer to you and opens them up to sharing their own life experiences. It’s okay to share mistakes that you’ve made, especially if you’ve learned a valuable lesson from them. Self deprecating humor is a way of gently acknowledging your own mistakes or areas of weakness, but don’t be too hard on yourself.
The most effective way to get stronger in these areas is not to “practice” out of context, but instead to become aware of them as you interact with people throughout your day. Authenticity is the key, so it won’t do you any good to work out your conversation skills like you would a muscle in a gym. Becoming overly self conscious takes away from your ability to give your attention to the person you are speaking to. It all comes back to presence, being fully in the moment where you are and who you are with.