Non-Verbal Behaviors that Signal “Charisma”

Olivia Fox Cabane

Olivia Fox Cabane

Olivia Fox Cabane defines charismatic behaviors as managing internal states and beliefs through self-awareness, emotional self-management to focus on others and “make them feel good,” in her book, The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism.

She identified four types of “charisma:”

o Focus: Presence, listening intently, confidence
o Visionary: Belief, confidence, inspires others
o Kindness: Warmth, confidence, eye contact, compassion/self-compassion, gratitude, goodwill, enable others to feel important and heard through asking open-ended questions, redirecting focus to other with question about opinion
o Authority: Power, status, confidence, appearance/clothing, “take up space” posture, reduce number of non-verbal reassurances (nodding)

Her book considers three key contributors to “charisma”:

o Presence – mindful attention, patient listening, avoiding interruption

o Power – appearance, clothing, occupy space, positive wording (avoid “don’t”), placebo effect

o Warmth – chin down, eye contact, Duchenne smile (mouth corners, eye corners), gratitude, compassion, appreciation to counteract “hedonic adaptation”

In an interview, Fox Cabane offered three “quick fixes” to amplify perceived “charisma”:

• Lower the intonation of your voice at the end of your sentences (no Valley Girl talk…)
• Reduce the speed and rapidity of nodding
• Pause for two seconds before you speak

She offered a number of self-management and communication tips, including a review of Cognitive Behavior Modification practices:

o Destigmatize Discomfort-Dedramatize
o Neutralize Negativity by disputing thoughts
o Rewrite Reality with cognitive reappraisal-reframing

Other reminders include:

• Increasing resilience by expanding the personal “comfort zone”
• Employing mental rehearsal through visualization
• Adopting equanimity, “radical acceptance”, calm
• Increasing impressions of similarity by increasing subtle mirroring of phrases, posture, gestures (such as handshake)
.Investigating appropriate attire, match level of formality/informality
o Delivering value: entertainment, information, good feeling
o Inhaling through nose to avoid anxious, breathless sound
o Using as few words as possible; be succinct; illustrate with imagery, metaphor, analogy, story, compelling statistics relevant to the listener
o Expressing appreciation for specific help, influence; identify positive impact, and context in which it came to mind
o Avoiding verbal “distractors”: “um”, “ah”, “you know”
o Breathing to avoid self-generated anxiety: ”Pause-Breathe-Slow Down”

-*Which elements of Power, Presence, and Warmth have you observed among the most “charismatic” people you know?

©Kathryn Welds

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4 thoughts on “Non-Verbal Behaviors that Signal “Charisma”

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