If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

~John Quincy Adams

Few qualities in man have shaped the history of nations as much as the great and perpetually admired virtue of charisma.

From Alexander the Great who inspired and pushed his men to sweep through Asia, to Martin Luther King who attracted millions to witness his vision of a better tomorrow.

Every leader that has left a mark on humanity possesses a special type of quality that allows them to speak and others listen with their hearts. This magical quality called Charisma is not only for the great, thanks to psychology, but we can also all experience a nibble of greatness.

Where Does Charisma Come From?

There is a long-standing debate on the true origins of charisma, is it inherited by genes or can we learn charisma and all the attributes that come along with it? Well, there is no definite answer but what psychologists and researchers have discovered is that childhood development seems to play a large role in determining charisma.

Dr. Achar of the Indian Psychiatric Association explored and studied what made the charismatic man and in his research, he discovered that it was their childhood. Dr. Achar realized something fundamental about children who grew up with only one or no parents at all.

Moreover, it is children who grow up deprived of parental love and guidance that seem to develop charisma at an early age and embrace it throughout their entire lives. Dr. Achar goes on to say,

“Parental deprivation through death, separation or ineffectiveness often renders the child or adolescent insecure. Emotional handicap or disability is sought to be compensated by a quality of attractiveness. The charismatic’s gifts come to fruition through an intersection between his or her inner world and external social reality that continuously impinges on the individual and the collective psyche.”

This means that children who face adversity early on in their lives are the most likely to develop into charismatic leaders or specialists in their respective fields. This can expand into the realms of literature, religion, politics, or entertainment; each field allows the charismatic to flourish and develop their influential capabilities.

So How Do the Rest of Us Gain Charisma?

Dr. Dean Keith Simonton of the University of California Davis wrote a book called “Why Presidents Succeed” and in the book, he explains exactly how American presidents use language to make themselves more charismatic.

Dr. Dean Keith Simonton says, “Words with basic emotions, sensations or visions, such as love, hate, greedy or evil, have a richness that connects with an audience”.

Meaning the ability to connect on an empathic level is of utmost importance to developing charisma. You have to be able to sense what others are feeling and then appeal to those emotions.

Dr. Simonton goes on to say that,

“People don’t have rich associations with abstract words like inference, concept or logic,” he says. “‘I feel your pain’ has association, but ‘I can relate to your viewpoint’ doesn’t. The most charismatic presidents reached an emotional connection with people talking not to their brains but to their gut.”

So now you understand that what we say plays a large role in how people perceive us and whether or not the charisma displays. Another factor to remember, according to behavioral psychologists, is your physical demeanor.

Flattering behavior like mirroring — where you copy the physical movements and posture of the person you’re engaging with, alters their perception of you. The other person unconsciously registers your similar movement and tells the brain that you’re safe and likable.

Another technique that social scientists have discovered to build your charisma, is to exaggerate your facial expressions. Specifically your eyebrows — when another brain registers your physical motions, they often look for signs of danger or mistrust first. Thus, the more expressive and open you appear to be, the more the other person will like you.

A Few Tips to Develop Charisma

So the next time you find yourself in a situation where you have to let your charisma shine and your personality impress, remember these few tips:

  1. Smile with your eyesFake smiles can be seen a mile away so make sure that when you smile, the creases on your eyes do so as well.
  2. Posture – A straight and rigid back is one of the most attractive qualities about another person and it illustrates the health of the individual.
  3. Voice – Try to be mindful of the tempo and volume of your voice. Don’t speak too fast because the brain will register it as untrustworthy and too “salesy”.
  4. Eye Contact – Maintain 3/4 of contact, any more than that and it will come off as uncomfortable.
  5. Gestures – Try to use your hands to speak so that the person you’re engaging with can witness your vitality and ease of expression.

To Learn More About Charisma (References):

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2755138/
  2. http://www.apa.org/monitor/jan05/savoir.aspx

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