The Charisma Myth

Summary Written by Jon Mertz
"Charisma gets people to like you, trust you, and want to be led by you. It can determine whether you’re seen as a follower or a leader, whether your ideas get adopted, and how effectively your projects are implemented."

- The Charisma Myth, page 2

The Big Idea

Employ Your Charisma Behaviors

"Contrary to commonly held charisma myths, you don’t have to be naturally outgoing, you don’t have to be physically attractive, and you won’t have to change your personality. No matter where you’re starting from, you can significantly increase your personal charisma and reap the rewards both in business and in daily life."- The Charisma Myth, pages 9-10

Does charisma magically happen? The simple answer is “no.” It takes effort, but is attainable by all, so long as we can understand and learn to focus on three key behaviors: presence, power, and warmth. These three behaviors need to flow together in order to make the most of our charisma.

It starts with presence. We need to be fully present with others for our charisma to really work. In the age of distraction, we can easily be listening while not really listening. Our mind begins to wander, and our attention dissipates. With imperfect presence, we lose the people around us as they feel our lack of care.

People want to feel that they have our full attention when they speak with us. Helping them feel that way will draw them into us. In other words, when we are fully present, we create a memorable moment for those immediately around us.

Power and warmth are added in and tightly bound together. Only both can enable our charisma. While warmth is our goodwill towards another, power is our ability to make things happen. Being powerful with no warmth will not translate into having charisma; it may be viewed as just arrogance. Power and warmth provide the balance to enable our charisma to appear with the right mix of behaviors.

Our minds and bodies play key roles in our presence, power, and warmth. Our minds create the state in which we operate. With the right mindset, our body language aligns and works in concert with all our behaviors. It is about being in sync inside and out so that our charisma is felt and experienced.

Charisma sounds simple then, right? Unfortunately, there are many things that get in the way and diminish it. Our presence, power, and warmth can easily be distracted and disjointed, and it is only through our awareness and practices that our charisma can be revealed and properly used.

The Charisma Myth delivers important insights and lessons that open the door to our capabilities – eliminating the roadblocks and empowering our ability to lead more effectively and successfully. The following Insights offer two examples of how to utilize your untapped charisma.

Insight #1

Engage Your Discomfort

"Imagine strolling along the paths of your mind. Suddenly, you notice an unpleasant thought. See it as graffiti on the wall. That’s all it is, graffiti – not a verdict on what kind of person you are."- The Charisma Myth, page 49

What often gets in the way of using our charisma is discomfort and negativity. Some of this is self-inflicted, and some is inflicted upon us. In either case, there are ways to move beyond the discomfort. It takes effort and focus.

Two examples of how to engage our discomfort are (1) re-writing reality and (2) writing letters.

Example 1. Reality strikes. We get stuck in traffic. We encounter something that raises our anger or some other negative emotion, which impacts our presence, power, and warmth. In other words, it curtails our charisma.

To move beyond this discomfort, we can re-write the reality. What if the unfortunate, unpleasant experience was the right thing to have happened? Use your imagination and write it down. For example, being delayed in traffic could have saved your life from having an accident if you could have sped forward freely. Take a few minutes and literally write down how the negative things could actually be a positive. By writing it down, our mentality shifts and the discomfort lifts. We re-gain access to our presence, power, and warmth. Our charisma remains intact.

Example 2. To move beyond negativity, we can write a letter and release it. Resentment is a powerful uncharismatic mental state, so we need to rid ourselves of it. The exercise is to think about the person who really has irritated us and write that person a letter communicating everything you really want to tell them. Write it out by hand. After this, take out another piece of paper and write their response back.

It sounds awkward, yet it lifts the burden and frees our charisma to shine through. It is not about suppressing the discomfort; it is about diving into it and releasing it.

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Insight #2

Be Self Compassionate

"When things go wrong in our lives, it’s easy to feel that other people are having an easier time. Recognizing instead that everyone at some point has had or will have the very experience you’re having now can help you feel like part of the larger human experience rather than feeling isolated and alienated."- The Charisma Myth, page 86

It is not about self-pity. It is about acknowledging what has happened to you as “unfortunate”. In doing this, we forgive ourselves, and we don’t get wrapped up in being overly self-critical. What happens then is our charisma does not become worn down. In fact, self-compassion can create more self-confidence and connectedness to a situation, which enhances our charisma. A win-win.

In understanding our charisma, it may be more essential to understand what is holding our charisma back. This makes sense. Our mental state needs to be open and enabling. With this, our presence, power, and warmth will shine through in our interaction with others. Said another way, when we remove our self-installed roadblocks, our charisma excels.

The Charisma Myth delivers an interesting perspective. It lifts any mystery surrounding charisma and shows several ways to let our charisma come through in an effective and complete manner. As Olivia Fox Cabane states near the end of her book: “Now you know what charisma is: behaviors that project presence, power, and warmth. You know these behaviors can be learned, and you’ve been given an entire toolkit to do so.”

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Get The Charisma Myth on Amazon.

Olivia Fox Cabane

An expert in the fields of charisma and leadership, Olivia Fox Cabane has lectured at Stanford, Yale, Harvard, MIT and the United Nations. As a frequent keynote speaker and executive coach to the leadership of Fortune 500 companies, she helps people become more persuasive, influential, and inspiring. From a base of thorough behavioral science, Olivia extracts the most practical tools for business; giving her clients techniques she originally developed for Harvard and MIT.

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