The 3 Elements of Charisma: Presence

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Are you a senior in high school running for Student Council President?

Are you an entrepreneur looking to make a successful pitch and attract investors?

Are you a military officer working to win your men’s loyalty?

Are you a salesman trying to land some new clients?

Are you a college professor wanting to get through to your students?

Are you a single guy looking for love?

No matter your situation in life and your individual aims, one of the most important tools for success is your personal charisma. Charisma is what allows you to command a room, draw others to you, and convince people of your ideas. It’s an essential part of being the kind of leader who wins devoted followers who are willing to go to the ends of the earth for you. Charismatic men are perceived as both likeable and powerful, a dynamic, irresistible combination that opens endless doors to them.

Charisma may seem like a mysterious quality — something that some men are born with and some are not. But this is happily not the case. You don’t need to have hit the genetic charisma lottery in order to develop yourself into a man with powerful magnetism.

Far from being a magical and inexplicable trait, charisma can be broken down into a set of concrete, largely nonverbal behaviors that can be learned, practiced, and made natural. Olivia Fox Cabane, author of The Charisma Myth, places these behaviors into three categories: Presence, Power, and Warmth. When deftly combined, these three components produce strong personal magnetism.

We will be devoting an entire post to each of these three components of charisma. Each will provide an overview of the component, as well as practical tips for developing and implementing it. Later on, we will cover charismatic body language, and, because not every “style” of charisma is appropriate for every situation, we’ll discuss what behaviors to use or de-emphasize in different situations.

For today, we’ll start off by talking about the first component of charisma: Presence.

Charisma Component #1: Presence

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and you could tell you didn’t have their complete attention?

How did it make you feel?

Probably a bit annoyed.

Sadly, it seems fewer and fewer people are fully present and engaged with the individuals they’re interacting with. Being completely engaged in a conversation has likely always been a challenge, as we all have a bit of the conversational narcissist in us.

Now that smartphones have saturated modern life, being fully present is even harder. People today try to (unsuccessfully) switch their attention between two worlds — the real world populated by the people they are physically present with and the cyber world which sends them dispatches through their phone. Go to any restaurant in America and you’re bound to see tables of people staring blankly at their smartphones and hardly engaging with each other. This video that circulated the intertubes a few weeks ago perfectly captures the way in which technology has created a society of non-present screen gawkers. Pretty poignant.

The good news about all this is that it’s now incredibly easy to set yourself apart from the pack simply by being fully present with people and giving them your complete attention.

When you think of charisma, you might think of trying to make yourself seem super awesome to others. But the paradoxical secret of charisma is that it’s not about trumpeting your good qualities, but making the other person feel good about himself. Real charisma makes the other person feel important; when they finish an interaction with you, they feel better about themselves than they did before.

Focusing your mental and emotional energy on someone as you interact is how you create that feeling of importance. People fundamentally want attention – they want to be recognized and acknowledged.

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