Communicating through the Avatar

The breadth and range of human nature is such that no person can hope to successfully influence everyone to whom he or she reaches out. For some, the effect may be too forceful or dogmatic; for others too timid, aloof or lacking in charm.

Nevertheless we all have strategies – built up unconsciously over decades – for projecting a communicative persona or behaviour that helps us to get at least some of what we want from life. We do this by using a distinctive style we know will win the trust and perhaps even the admiration of as many as possible of those surrounding us.

But could we widen our appeal and so influence more people? The answer is yes – if we could uncover our inner capacity to project beyond those known and familiar frontiers of behaviour. Public figures do this all the time,  adding depth, range and respect to our perception of them by reaching out for some inner opposite.

In a role-reversal from her on-screen persona of Walt Disney’s Malificent, Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie is a noted United Nations Special Envoy for refugees, visiting the world’s most miserable trouble-spots*. Stephen Fry, a genial chat show-host, raconteur and accomplished TV presenter, also campaigns actively for LGBT sexual rights.

Could this woman save children, not hate them?

Could this woman save children, not hate them?

For regular mortals, self-improvement manuals talk of boosting impact by “pushing the envelope,” learning to “swing out” or “punching above your weight.” But without the means to visualize or map these new areas, such efforts often turn out either fruitless, or can look artificial and insincere.

Communicate Charisma has developed a methodology to map, measure and visualize the ways we project our communicative persona. This identifies where we can expand areas of influence in ways that are consistent with our own nature.

We have designed a simple self-assessment test that generates two graphic presentations making up a unique personality profile. The circular seven dimensional Charisma Essence Profile shows the assets and energies we bring to each interaction.

Charisma Projection Profile for an Evangelist

Charisma Projection Profile for an Evangelist

Meanwhile, a two-dimensional grid showing the Charisma Projection Profile demonstrates the style we use to influence those around us – and it’s the focus of this article. Each zone of this grid encapsulates a fundamental behaviour we have condensed into a familiar “avatar” or personality type.

Communicate Charisma's clockface of nine Avatars

Communicate Charisma’s clockface of nine Avatars

A glance at the Projection Profile will show why certain behaviour styles or avatars are unlikely to influence those tending to favour the opposite or “shadow” of that type. For instance, those adopting a projection style that’s strongly based on the Charmer avatar, may struggle to influence those accustomed to the arguments of the Persuader. And vice versa.

The centre ground is the terrain of the Mediator (serving as a channel connecting differing views or styles). Although the Mediator might appear to project a neutral “all things to all men” style, the more powerful emotions of respect and admiration are mostly triggered when listeners identify something of themselves in a charismatic speaker. This may call for passion and partisanship.

Let’s take a tour of each of the nine avatars identified in the 2D Projection Profile. This will help to show how individuals exercise their influence. And where each distinctive type can expand charismatic range by understanding their avatar and reaching out toward its shadow.

Nine personality type Avatars and their shadows

Nine personality type Avatars and their shadows

Don’t forget that while each of these nine zones around the “clockface” represents a pure personality type, any Charisma Projection Profile resulting from a Communicate Charisma test will show an ellipse covering more than one zone. So any individual type blends several elements.

And we’ve illustrated  this with  representative maps suggesting how the Angelina Jolie and Stephen Fry  might look. We’d love for  both of them to take the Communicate Charisma self-assessment test!

People often ask how we can help boost their charisma. Understanding and working with this grid is one part of the conscious process we use to “make it better.”

The Evangelist.

Strengths: The Evangelist is persuasive in projecting a popular vision for crowds, urging them to acknowledge his or her perspective, making this a classic leadership style.

Limitations: This approach can look thick-skinned and heedless of others, with a tendency to monopolize the stage. Egotists may care less about reaching out, and more about winning personal recognition.

Relationship Patterns: The Evangelist prioritizes Vision over Empathy, and Drive over Collaboration. The Evangelist’s compulsion to lead creates some blind spots, for mesmerizing people isn’t the only way to win followers and build influence.

Avatar and Shadow: The Evangelist loves centre stage; yet the softer, more intuitive skills of the Coach must also find expression if potential for influence is to be fulfilled.

Paths to Integration: Evangelists who understand sensitivity is not a challenge area but an added strength, will moderate what often sounds a strident tone, and widen their catchment area of influence.

Roles: Brand Management, Sales & Marketing, CEO.

Angelina Jolie: her campaign persona is far more than a pretty face

Angelina Jolie: her campaign persona is far more than a pretty face

The Persuader

Strengths: The Persuader exercises forceful influence on audiences great or small, because he or she has the self-assurance to win over believers and transform outcomes by force of personality.

Limitations: With a focus on argument, this can seem like insensitive or egotistical point-scoring, especially if the speaker depends on empty rhetoric.

Relationship Patterns: The Persuader prioritizes Vision over Beliefs over and Drive over Empathy. Yet a more relaxed and accepting stance could win over more followers.

Avatar and Shadow: The Persuader is seldom “off duty.” Yet the Charmer’s way of sharing Values rather than always trying to change them, is what gives added power to win hearts.

Paths to Integration: Persuaders able to see acceptance and sharing not as a challenge area, but as a source of strength, will unlock their power of Empathy.

Roles: Sales & Marketing, Legal Training. IR

The Recruiter

Strengths: The Recruiter zooms in on individual needs or aspirations, customising his or her appeal to each listener. This helps build a sense of confederacy or affinity.

Limitations: This unashamedly persuasive style and its emphasis on intimacy will be seen by some as “sales and marketing talk.”

Relationship Patterns: The Recruiter prioritizes Self-Assurance over Collaboration and Values over Empathy. Yet we’re most likely to experience a change of heart when others set aside their ego, to put themselves in our place.

Avatar and Shadow: The Recruiter’s need for building inclusive teams may betray a neglect for freedom of choice – precisely the principle the Facilitator uses to win over those resistant to forcefulness.

Paths to Integration: The strength to show vulnerability can be the most persuasive and authentic of all voices, sweeping away barriers to Empathy.

Roles: HR, Executive Selection.

The Campaigner

Strengths: The Campaigner is a powerful catalyst to change the way large groups make decisions. Preaching benefits to help shift perceptions, makes this an effective sales or marketing style.

Limitations: A tactical yet very flexible approach to changing minds can be seen as opportunist, while this approach may get little traction in intimate situations.

Relationship Patterns: The Campaigner prioritizes group skills of Collaboration and Empathy over individual Values and Self-Assurance. That means personal needs can be overlooked, for many resist attempts to make up their own mind for them.

Avatar and Shadow: The Campaigner works by building on common ground and shared opinions. Yet many minds will change only in response to the individualist and open approach of the Negotiator.

Paths to Integration: The ability to touch every individual in a crowd by opening a direct personal channel, distinguishes the leader from the manager.

Roles: Marketing, Learning and Development. OD. Corporate events.

The Mediator

Strengths: The Mediator is alert to feedback and chameleon-like in searching for common ground with others. This polyvalent communicator constantly tracks how well the message is being received and accepted.

Limitations: This diplomatic type can seem insincere or slippery if caught out trying to be “all things to all men.”

Relationship Patterns: A Mediator untouched by other avatars is rare. Profiles covering the central space will blend with one or more personality types around the ‘clockface,’ creating a more distinctive voice.

Avatar and Shadow: The Mediator is a channel connecting opposing views, placing consensus above his or her needs. This may recruit the ‘reasonable middle’, but won’t sway the more partisan. So every Mediator also has a distinctive streak.

Paths to Integration: As in life, avatars use the Mediator’s non-committal central terrain to reach out toward their opposites, and so expand their range of influences.

Roles: Senior management, Counsel.

The Negotiator

Strengths: The Negotiator’s patience and sensitivity builds loyal support because it offers a sense of companionship. This generates an affinity that influences outcomes and wins faithful allies.

Limitations: While persistence and personalised focus works well individually, larger groups may ignore the effect as lacking impact.

Relationship Patterns: The Negotiator fosters collusion by prioritizing Values and Self-Assurance over Vision and Collaboration. But this ‘petit comité’ approach ignores our collective hunger for shared endeavours.

Avatar and Shadow: The Negotiator prizes intimacy and even secrecy. This ‘divide and rule’ approach can stir opposition when interlocutors are really seeking collective solutions typically offered by the Campaigner.

Paths to Integration: While the expert Negotiator makes us feel individual and special, our tribal affinity drives a powerful need for social belonging.

Roles: Legal, Finance, Labour Relations.

The Facilitator

Strengths: The Facilitator’s power to put others at their ease by appreciating their side of the story, stirs people to change their behaviour. This person builds rapport through gregarious style and effortless performance.

Limitations: This style can appear manipulative if it used merely to entice or flatter. And small groups my find this ‘big screen’ style unimpressive or insincere away from the podium.

Relationship Patterns: The Facilitator fosters Empathy over Vision, and Collaboration over Values. This may appear opportunist to those with a commitment to firm principles or long-term goals.

Avatar and Shadow: The Facilitator uses interpersonal skills to energize the group without seeking to dominate it. Such discretion may not satisfy those requiring firmer, more overt guidance offered from the Evangelist type.

Paths to Integration: While the Facilitator energizes the group and builds momentum, every successful journey needs a clear destination and planned stages.

Roles: Communications, HR.

Stephen Fry: polymath TV host and presenter - plus active campaigner

Stephen Fry: polymath TV host and presenter – plus active campaigner

The Charmer

Strengths: The Charmer has the emotional intelligence to melt down resistance and lower barriers of mistrust. By mobilising emotions, he or she becomes hard to resist.

Limitations: Audiences requiring empirical proof will not be convinced by this smooth approach, which can seem a superficial attempt to mobilise the emotions of listeners.

Relationship Patterns: The Charmer’s forte is Empathy and Collaboration, rather than Drive or Values, as feeling good is his or her key to unlocking influence. Without empirical basis, this can be coolly received.

Avatar and Shadow: The Charmer adopts unconventional rules of engagement to disarm resistance, often without visible effort or any recourse to the logic or arguments used by the Persuader.

Paths to Integration: First impressions may glitter, yet seldom outshine solid arguments. Without these, the Charmer’s route to influence can seem risky.

Roles: Sales & marketing, Non-exec positions

The Coach

Strengths: The Coach creates a harmonious atmosphere using tailor-made emotional appeals that make sound intuitive sense. The blend of intimacy and emotional intelligence can overturn resistance based on logic.

Limitations: Larger groups may find this ‘petit comité’ approach unimpressive and its low profile lacking in style.

Relationship Patterns: The Coach favours Values and Beliefs over Self-Assurance and Drive, valuing the individual’s internal growth over received group wisdom. The impulse for personal growth can tire those accustomed to living by rules.

Avatar and Shadow: The Coach fearlessly deploys personality to reach the heart of the matter, without regard for status or hierarchy. This may be too demanding for those expecting ready-made solutions handed out by the Evangelist.

Paths to Integration: Any Coach exciting a spirit of personal enquiry, while combining this with a clear collective vision of the future, enjoys great influence.

Roles: Non Exec, Training and Development, Mentor or internal coach.

*Banner photo of Angelina Jolie is by AFP.

At Communicate Charisma we teach people how to become more engaging and effective communicators. In our Charisma Dimensions workshops, we use practical exercises coupled with our bespoke self-awareness tools to allow participants to understand and experience the impact of individual personality traits on how we are perceived by others. Together, we use these insights to develop a more effective and authentic personal style, and so raise our power of influence and communications mastery.

Find out more about our workshops.

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