Can Charisma help me succeed in business?

In reading this, you probably have a question in your head, ‘Can charisma be developed or are some people just born charismatic?’

In my experience, the answer is obvious: anyone can increase their charisma. But don’t take my word for it. Instead, let’s explore:

According to Ronald Riggio, PhD, professor of leadership and organizational psychology at Claremont McKenna College, California, USA, Charisma has three main ingredients.

They are:

  1. Expressiveness
  2. Control
  3. Sensitivity

Riggio defines expressiveness as a talent for spontaneously striking up conversations and easily conveying feelings; control as the ability to fine-tune your persona to fit the mood and social makeup of any group; and sensitivity as a gift for listening and sussing out other people’s mind-sets.

‘A lot of charisma comes down to how you communicate,’ Riggio says. ‘It’s your ability to pick up on other people’s emotions as well as express your own.’

The Impact of unconscious Body Language

MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA) computer scientist, Alex Pentland, PhD, has found that the three main ingredients of charisma can be measured by studying the gestures and expressions that we all make; largely unconsciously. ‘When a charismatic person connects with someone, their autonomic nervous system becomes aroused: their attention is locked on to that person and they’re tingling with energy,’ says Pentland.

This confirms my belief that charismatic people genuinely like and are curious about other people. It’s how they pay attention to others, how they listen, how interested they are and how they show this that counts. And yet how many of us believe that to be charismatic we have to be – perhaps – show offs, larger than life, or continuously performing to the camera?

Listening Style

One of my personal life goals is to raise the level of my listening skills to an art form.

You become more charismatic when you simply use gestures such as nodding your head when the other person speaks, holding eye contact, trading smiles and echoing the feelings and key words of the other person. No just being really interested but showing that you are, is one of the keys.

Pentland explains, ‘Our bodies produce endorphins when we feel in tune with the other person.’ Nodding in agreement or copying the other person’s gestures causes empathic systems in our physiology to kick into action.

Empathy – our ability to sense what the other person is thinking and feeling – comes from our brain’s mirror neurons lighting up, which, from birth, is a totally natural ability: we all have it.

Problem is that as we become more and more exposed to, and conditioned by, life’s roller-coaster experiences, perhaps as a form of self-protection, we tend to shy away from empathy that might make us feel bad.

Not everyone does this of course. Some go the other way, and become completely conditioned by the emotions of other people in close proximity. We cry when the other person cries; we laugh when they laugh; we even feel for the other person. But this is not ideal. The ideal is to be in control; to choose when empathy is appropriate and desired, or not.

Speaking Style

When it comes to your turn to speak, speaking with more energy is rated as more charismatic.

In fact, a study in 2005 showed that people who speak more quickly were rated as more charismatic than those who took their time. A speaking style that’s fast yet calm and fluid is the most charismatic of all because it shows that a person is confident about herself and her ideas.

Charisma in Business

Pentland and his colleagues at MIT have been measuring how charisma affects success in pitching for business or negotiating for a raise in salary.

The gadget used, called a socio-meter, tracks patterns of speech and bodily movement, although it doesn’t record what is actually said!

Sounding like an expert (as opposed to actually being one), incorporating specific unconscious gestures, and being very enthusiastic (perhaps passionate), researchers found were all factors that contribute to success in business.

So, can we fake it? Maybe, to a degree!

The Balance of Opposites

To be truly charismatic, though, you must balance the expressivity, control and sensitivity with their opposites. Because that’s when you really start to attract people like a magnet.

Joseph Roach, PhD, a professor of theatre and English at Yale, says that it’s the mix of being warm and tough, strong and vulnerable, down-to-earth and one-of-a-kind that your power intensifies.

The Inspirationist® own company research over the last three years, working with nearly three hundred clients from a variety of industries and professions, has also confirmed this.

Our unique ‘Personality Branding Programme’ includes the identification of these powerful, vital balances for all our clients.

For more information about how The Inspirationist® can help you develop your own charisma, winning your more business in the process, email or telephone 0800 840 6093.

For QJ’s Daily Inspiration, click here…

How charismatic are you? Take this Test

Some of this Blog is paraphrased from ‘What is the X Factor?’ | October 2010


Posted on January 26, 2011, in Sky Rocket Your Business. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. The explanation of the three main ingredients of charisma was particularly useful, thanks QJ.

    I wonder whether, following up a (any) networking event, if people had the option to anonymously ‘judge’ (perhaps via an online survey) the other people they spoke to, how insightful that would be. Some of the factors they could comment on would be related to the ingredients of charisma.

    If, for example, a recipient of the feedback discovered that many people felt they were lacking in some way then they should be thankful for the opportunity to be made aware (and so perhaps would consider getting ‘help’ in that area).

  2. Some years ago I had the misfortune to suffer a Royal visit at my factory. The disruption and security demands were so extraordinary that they presented a real risk to the commercial viability of the works.It is fair to say that by the day of the event 95% of the workforce would have voted Republican, When HRH arrived there were set piece presentations to a selected few, the rest of us got ‘the speech’, and yet when he looked around at us, I suddenly knew why men had followed his ancestors to war over the centuries; and the word I used was charisma. Clearly there was confidence, but I reckon most of what we call charisma in actually the careful faking, having met the real thing I seriously doubt it can be created.

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