A recent New York Times article named the "three pillars" of charisma, and unsurprisingly, how you show up for a conversation really, really counts. The first pillar, "presence", seems doable; the second, "power," is something that comes with age and time. "Warmth," the third is a little less tangible, however. As Olivia Fox Cabane, a charisma coach, tells the Times, warmth is "a vibe" that you're open to receiving someone with kindness. So how the heck do you fake a "vibe" for the sake of furthering your career and building meaningful friendships?
To fake it 'til you make it with charisma, Sanam Hafeez, PsyD, a New York City neuropsychologist, recommends recognizing how you're representing yourself in a given conversation. "We don’t all give off warmth signals. In addition, the signals can be perceived very individually. Meaning that, while we know the general themes that represent warmth, those receiving the signals may read different meanings into them based on their own psychology and history," explains Dr. Hafeez.
While you can't control the context, subtext, mood, grudges, or baggage that someone's bringing to the convo, there are ways to turn the temperature up on social exchanges from a chilly 45 degrees to a cozy 75 (know what I mean?). Below, Dr. Hafeez gives four questions to ask yourself to see if you're bringing the warm fuzzies to a given social exchange. If you're not already, here's how to thread every conversation with your (metaphorical) magical glowing hair.
Ask yourself four questions to add warmth to your personality traits:
1. Am I listening carefully with interest? Listening isn't a talent, it's a skill—and Dr. Hafeez says mastering it will up your charisma a good dose. "If you find yourself deviating from a conversation to look away or interact with other people, that may signal to the person with you that you are not entirely interested in what is being discussed. This can lead to micro-cues of disinterest even amongst people who are close," she says. If you like to be heard, chances are other people do, too.
2. Am I being a negative nelly about people's hopes and dreams? "When new ideas are being showcased to you—whether it be in a debate you are having with a friend or while someone is asking for your counsel—do you immediately invalidate their idea or thought process?" asks Dr. Hafeez. If the answer is yes, then your contrarian tendencies might make people box you up in the Ice Queen category. "Charismatic people are those who can show humor, kindness, and acceptance to those they are listening to, even when they disagree with them," she concludes. Take note.
3. Am I trying to relate to others? People tend to weave stories together as they talk, and—if you're being a good listener (and a charismatic individual)—you'll want to make sure you're asking questions and interacting as the story evolves. "If you are listening to a story and not acknowledging meaningful turns in the narrative or reacting to the different topics of the story, then the person sharing their experience can perceive that as disinterest," says Dr. Hafeez. Again, this really goes back to opening your ears and listening up.
4. Am I using this conversation as an opportunity to learn about the other person? "People who excel at warmth seem to be those who authentically enjoy the process of being around people. This is not to be confused with being an extrovert. This instead means that your interactions with others are experienced as opportunities to get to know them, relate to their stories, and show support," the psychologist explains. If you're curious about other people's lives, they'll see you as white-hot supernova you are. So tap into the chit-chat and find something real.
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