Originally published on Advisor Perspectives
An article in The New York Times guided those who wish to be perceived as charismatic. It’s an interesting subject, but the goal is wrong-headed. Here’s why.
What is charisma?
The article quotes John Antonakis, a professor of organizational behavior at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. He defines charisma as, “signaling information in a symbolic, emotional and value-based manner. Thus, charisma signaling is all about using verbal – what you say – and nonverbal techniques.”
I don’t know what that means. It suggests making yourself appealing to others, commanding attention and having a magical presence in a room.
The premise of this article, and many others on the same subject, is that being charismatic (often expressed as the ability to “command a room, draw others to you, and convince people of your ideas”) is an advantageous personal trait. We’re told charismatic people, “are perceived as both likeable and powerful, a dynamic, irresistible combination that opens endless doors to them.”
For many – especially introverts like me – achieving this status would be a nightmare. The last thing I want to do is draw anyone to me and be the focus of their attention. I can already feel my palms sweating as I envision hordes of strangers approaching me because of some verbal or non-verbal signal I’ve inadvertently presented.
If you’re an introvert, you can relate. If you’re an extrovert, you may already believe you’re charismatic and wish to hone those skills.
As the New York Times article noted, for those of you who strive for charismatic status, start by being present in the moment. This involves more than talking. Ask questions. Listen carefully to the answers and then ask follow-up questions. The less you talk, and the more you show a genuine interest in others, the more charismatic you’ll be perceived to be.
But here’s my point. The goal shouldn’t be enhancing your charisma. It should be an authentic interest in the other person. It’s not about you. It’s about conveying the legitimate impression to your prospect, client, friends and family that you care about them.
The second “charisma tip” from the Times article was to “remove self-doubt” by, “assuring yourself that you belong and that your skills and passions are valuable and interesting to others.”
My issue with this “tip” is more fundamental. You have no business being an advisor if you don’t believe you add value to your clients. Puffing yourself up by self-affirming your value is not a productive exercise. A more fruitful one would be exploring why you need external validation of your worth.
The third “tip” was radiating, “a certain kind of vibe that signals kindness and acceptance.” These are positive traits worthy of your effort. However, instead of, “signaling kindness and acceptance” in order to make yourself more charismatic, why not actually be kind and accepting? This is easily accomplished by eliminating your need to demonstrate your expertise, engaging in self-referential talk designed to impress, and having an agenda. Instead of conveying information, it involves eliciting information.
Don’t try to be charismatic. That goal pales in comparison to being genuine, sincere, curious and authentic. Whether those traits translate into a perception of “charisma” is irrelevant to your success.