Fighting Fire with Fire: Can true charisma extinguish false populism?
So the Donald Trump era has ended. Not with a bang or a whimper, but an angry snarl and a graceless "concession-without conceding" tweet. And if the President’s chief [ more » ]
When we meet a person with true “wow factor,” we instinctively feel the effect. But standing outside, it’s much, much harder to explain why we’re so affected.
Charisma – the ability of certain people to lower barriers of disbelief in others and to increase willingness to follow and admire them – has been defined again and again. Yet it remains elusive because we can’t see it.
Recently I looked at the efficacy of tactics to increase the effect we have on others, by adopting certain non-verbal gestures and behaviours designed to artificially raise charisma when we communicate.
We looked at this Behaviourist school and its charisma leadership tactics, which train charisma by applying certain standardised gestures or changes in the way we hold our bodies, sometimes with the advice to “fake it till you can make it.”
Actors and entertainers, of course, achieve their mastery and originality through long years of training and method. But not all of us can dedicate ourselves to this route.
Now it’s time to assess alternatives. A radically different approach — which we call the Energetic school — holds that our effectiveness as communicators derives from the unique mix of energies each one of us already possesses. Rather than adding something new, we need to uncover and make the best of what we’ve already got.
This Energetic school holds that each of us possesses a personal ‘essence’ or mix of attributes that life, experience and opportunity has bequeathed to us. The way we project this energy onto the world determines the persona that others see and respond to.
If we know how to project those energies that make up our “essence” as we communicate, the result will be authentic and our non-verbal language will become an integral part of who we are.
So let’s imagine our charisma “assets” are really just like a hand of cards that’s been dealt to us randomly by life. Before we sit down to play, we should examine the hand we have been dealt to find out where our own strengths and challenges are — especially if there is some “skin in the game.”
Good players are highly sensitive to the skills of others around the table. So they know how to make the best of a weak hand, or how to win extra tricks by saving the strongest card for a perfect moment. If card-players rely on their powers of intuition and subtle persuasion, then those who communicate with charisma do so to an even greater degree.
Those with high levels of empathy will intuitively establish emotional links with their audiences, while those with drive or assertiveness will galvanize listeners to action. Those able to project vision or belief will serve as evangelists for their cause.
Yet some people may have more aloof or refractory characteristics that make it harder for them to be seen as natural collaborators. Chances are, such a person will have also have strong drive or beliefs, allowing him or her to convince audiences using persuasive styles. Such people retain their charisma by diverting people’s attention away from areas where their range is narrow.
By getting in touch with the inner sources of their own charisma, any person will have greater confidence to “let their body speak its mind.” We all know stories of astonishing changes in persona, where an “Ugly Duckling” emerges as a self-assured and accomplished communicator.
So charisma is really just a matter of understanding, and then applying our energy. Yet for nearly all of us, a lifetime of communication has left us with “old habits,” shyness, nervous tics or limitations that conceal or blunt who we truly are.
As you can see, this quite a different approach from the kind of globalised ‘charisma factory’ we can see on TV talent shows. Here, hopeful young musicians are first noticed at mass auditions by established celebrities such as Simon Cowell, and then coached and trained through subsequent weeks, to finally emerge as “stars.” In addition to honing their musical and dance skills, they are clearly being coached in charisma tactics.
Just how durable will the era of auditorium-show stars prove to be? It seems to be more like an “X Factory” where young entertainers are given a standard set of skills. No wonder truly charismatic veterans such as Sir Elton John are highly critical of the trend. It’s notable that one of the most memorable products was Susan Boyle, a singer who back in 2009 rebelled against the whole system to find her own authentic and powerful voice.
And, if having charisma is all about “being different” it makes little sense to learn techniques that will make us just like somebody else. Most of us don’t want to become George Clooney or Oprah Winfrey. We want to be ourselves – but more authentically so, and in brighter colours.
But let’s put aside consideration of celebrities, stars and wannabees. Charisma is for everyone, and for every situation where our own communication impacts other people.
We know effective communication is a life success factor, so let’s use this most valuable of all tools. So, how can we how can put charisma at our service by evaluating the “hand of cards” we possess, and play it to the best of our ability in the circumstances we encounter, without defaulting to our bad habits?
An important realisation is that there is no “right or wrong” about the way we communicate. Each one of us is different and we can make personal choices about where and how to emphasize our personal strengths.
That’s why the Communicate Charisma method is based on the simple idea of “map, measure and then manage.” Mapping our charisma assets results in two simple visual displays: the Two Dimension Projection Plot and the Seven Dimension Essence Plot.
These plots start us on our personal charisma journey by visualising the sources of our energy as communicators. We already know our own personalities, but confronting this “mirror of the self” makes the task of change manageable and above all authentic.
You’ll see what I mean if you take the Self-assessment Test by clicking here.
New users will need to register first. To get you accustomed to the test procedure we ask you to make an assessment of a well-known figure or Great Communicator before you complete your own profile. By doing so you will make your own voice count in our “Wisdom of Crowds” project to better understand how we perceive charisma in famous people.
Then it’s your turn to assess yourself! After you have finished you’ll be able to see a Summary Report showing your Charisma Projection profile and your Seven Dimension Charisma Essence Profile.
Of course, it’s not the full report. But next time I’ll walk you through to explain what it all means.