The Charisma Myth

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  1. The Charisma Myth Summary
  2. Personal Development

The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane. “The most common charisma myth is that you have to be naturally boisterous or outgoing to be charismatic. [An] interesting research finding is that you can be a very charismatic introvert It is also a myth that you have to be attractive to be charismatic.”. The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane “The most common charisma myth is that you have to be naturally boisterous or outgoing to be charismatic.

The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism by Olivia Fox Cabane I, own this book and took these notes to further my own learning. If you enjoy these notes, please! Introduction. Charisma is the result of specific nonverbal behaviors, not an inherent or magical personal quality.

So its levels can fluctuate. To appear charismatic, appear to possess both high power and high warmth. 'Fight or flight?'

Is the power question. 'Friend or foe?' Is the warmth question. Presence is the real core component of charisma, the foundation upon which all else is built. Chapter 1: Charisma Demystified. You do not have to be extroverted or attractive to be charismatic.

And you don't have to change your personality. Three quick tips to boost charisma in conversation: Lower the intonation of your voice at the end of sentences, reduce how quickly and how often you nod, and pause for two full seconds before you speak.

Chapter 2: The Charismatic Behaviors. When you're not present in an interaction, people will see it. Our body language sends a clear message that other people will read and react to, at least on a subconscious level.

Being present means having a moment-to-moment awareness of what's happening. It means paying attention to what's going on rather than being caught up in your own thoughts. Our minds constantly wander because attention to stimuli was required for our ancestors' survival, and our society encourages distraction. The next time you're in a conversation, bring yourself back to the present moment as often as you can by focusing your breath and then toes just for a second, and then back to focusing on the other person. Being charismatic does not depend on how much time you have but on how fully present you are in each conversation.

Every time you bring yourself back to full presence, you become more impactful, more memorable, and come across as more grounded. Warmth is goodwill toward others. It tells us whether or not people will want to use their power in our favor. It's assessed almost entirely through body language and behavior, and evaluated more directly than power.

Friendly body language leads others to assume good intentions, and confident posture leads others to assume we have something to be confident about. People accept whatever you project.

Someone projecting power without warmth appears as arrogant or cold. Someone projecting warmth without power appears as subservient or desperate. For charisma, your body language matters far more than your words do.

With the right body language, you can be charismatic without saying a word. If your internal state contradicts what you're aiming to portray, a microexpression will eventually flash across your face and betray that. So charismatic behaviors must originate in your mind. Knowing your internal world starts with one key insight upon which all charisma is built: your mind can't tell fact from fiction.

The negative analogue of the placebo is the nocebo effect, where the mind creates toxic consequences in the body in reaction to completely fictional causes. Chapter 3: The Obstacles to Presence, Power, and Warmth. Physical discomfort affects your external state, or body language, and consequently how charismatic you are perceived to be. People may gain confidence from feeling that they look impressive; find a balance between feeling comfortable and highly confident in your appearance. Check in with your face to note tension and keep present. If something has created tension, do something about it.

When the physical discomfort can't be alleviated, prevent others from taking your tension personally. Explain that you're in discomfort. Uncertainty typically breeds anxiety, which impacts our internal state, lowering our presence and our confidence. The ability to be comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity turns out to be one of the strongest predictors of success in business. To make uncertainty more comfortable, imagine transferring the responsibility of everything you're concerned about to a benevolent entity, such as God, Fate, or the Universe.

Comparing and evaluating hinders our ability to be fully present. Negative evaluation puts us in a negative mental state.

Notice when you're making comparisons and use responsibility transfer. When your internal voice starts criticizing us, it triggers our fight-or-flight response. This shuts down non-urgent functions such as cognitive reasoning. More than 70 percent of people have experienced impostor syndrome, where competent people feel that they don't know what they're doing, and are waiting to be exposed as frauds. While impostor syndrome can be a great motivating tool, its internal negativity impairs our body language, our interactions, and our ability to enjoy life. Chapter 4: Overcoming the Obstacles. Skillfully handling any difficult experience has three steps: de-stigmatize discomfort, neutralize negativity, and rewrite reality.

Shame is the most toxic feeling to harm and happiness. It's believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. The next time you feel discomfort, remember that such emotions are normal, that this is a common part of the human experience, that others have gone through this before, and view this one burden as shared by many.

Our brain filters for relevant information, but this can create an incomplete, distorted view of reality. Through negativity bias, our danger-focused brain deems the negative elements most important. When your brain spins negative scenarios, remind yourself that your brain may be following its negativity bias, playing up negative elements or omitting positive ones entirely. To neutralize negativity, don't assume your thoughts are accurate, assign a label to the experience, depersonalize it, realize that you'll survive the worst-case scenario, and think of all the times you survived this feeling.

Called cognitive reappraisal, ask yourself what mental state would be most useful in a situation, and rewrite reality to put you there. It's knowingly administering the placebo effect on yourself. For serious situations, rewrite reality on paper. This accesses different parts of our brain and makes imagined stories feel more real. Write in the present tense.

If you feel resentment toward someone, write a letter saying everything you wish you had ever told them. Then write a response, just the way you wish that person would respond. This 'new reality' can take hold and yield closure.

Putting it all together: Relieve physical discomfort, de-dramatize, de-stigmatize, neutralize, consider some alternative realities, and visualize a transfer of responsibility. To be comfortable with discomfort, delve into its sensations. Feel their texture. Imagine yourself as a scientist investigating this experience. Give yourself encouragement, and remind yourself that it will pass. Build comfort with discomfort by breaking social customs: Hold eye contact longer, experiment with personal space, stand with your back to the elevator door, and strike up conversations with strangers.

Chapter 5: Creating Charismatic Mental States. Imagining oneself performing an activity activates parts of the brain that are used in actually performing the activity.

To visualize, close your eyes and remember a past experience when you felt triumphant. Hear the sounds, see the smiles, feel the handshakes. Experience your feelings. Develop and practice a go-to visualization to help you regain calm and confidence, so you don't have to come up with new imagery in times of stress.

Oxytocin reverses the arousal of fight-or-flight. Just imagining a 20 second hug is enough to send oxytocin coursing through your veins. Gratitude doesn't come easy because we're wired for hedonic adaptation, or the tendency to take our blessings for granted. To invoke gratitude, find three abilities of yourself that you approve of, focus on little things and pleasant sights, narrate your life from the third-person in a positive light, and even imagine your own funeral. Goodwill is simply wishing others well.

One simple way to build goodwill toward a person is to find three things you like about him or her. Empathy means you understand how someone feels. Compassion is empathy plus goodwill, so you understand how they feel, and you wish them well. It is beyond goodwill. To build compassion toward someone, imagine their past and present, and put yourself in their shoes.

If they died, imagine what words you could say about them, or even say to them. Self-compassion is the warmth we have for ourselves, and prevents internal criticism from taking over and playing across our face.


This is critical to emanating warmth. One way to practice self compassion is to discover the ways in which you care for yourself, and to do these things when negativity hits. With metta, think of a time when you performed a good deed. Then think of one being who could have great affection for you.

Feel them giving you complete forgiveness and wholehearted acceptance. With all your imperfections, you are perfect. Displaying confident body language will actually make you feel more confident; these feelings will in turn affect your body language, and create a virtuous cycle. Willpower has a limited daily reserve, so allocate it carefully. Exerting willpower actually physically fatigues us.

To maximize your charisma before an important event, avoid any difficult encounters and cultivate confidence-boosting encounters beforehand, and create a music playlist for your desired internal state. Schedule your least-important meetings first. Write the least-important emails first.

You will be more practiced and confident as you go along. Chapter 6: Different Charisma Styles. There are four different types of charisma: focus, visionary, kindness, and authority. Focus charisma requires presence. People feel that you are fully present and with them, listening to them, absorbing what they say, and understanding them. It has two risks: If you display too little power, then you appear too eager or subservient. And if you show too little warmth, your interaction may feel like an interview or interrogation.

Visionary charisma requires projecting complete conviction and confidence in a cause. They may not be warm people, but they feel passionately about their vision. People accept whatever you project, so if you seem inspired, they will assume you have something to be inspired about. Kindness charisma is based on warmth. It connects with people's hearts so they feel welcomed, cherished, and completely accepted. It has the risk of making you seem overeager to please, and it can lead to adulation and potential over-attachment. Authority charisma is based on perception of power.

We evaluate it through body language, appearance, title, and the reaction of others. But without emanating warmth, it can inhibit critical thinking in others, suppress important feedback, and can easily make you appear arrogant. To decide which elements of charisma to bring out, you must assess what's best suited to your personality, your goals, and the situation.

To sense the emotional context around you, ask: How are the people around you feeling? What do they need in this moment?. When in a state of goodwill, your facial expressions and body language will register with people. They will want to like you and want to view your behaviors positively, giving you the best chance of getting your charisma right. Only try out new charisma styles in low-stakes situations. In high-stakes situations, stick with your most natural behaviors and charisma styles. Chapter 7: Charismatic First Impressions.

We judge many things from first impressions, and then spend the rest of our acquaintanceships proving those things correct. And they usually are. When people have similar attires, demeanor, and speech, they automatically assume they share similar backgrounds, education, and even values. For the perfect handshake, rise if you're seated, make plenty of eye contact and smile warmly but briefly, keep your palm flat, try to wrap your fingers around your partner's hand, lock your thumb down once contact is made, and shake from the elbow. To break the ice, compliment something the person is wearing. Continue with positive open-ended questions: 'What's the story behind it?'

, 'Where are you from?' , and 'What brought you here tonight?' . Use the bounce back technique to keep the spotlight on them: Answer the question with a fact, add a personal note, and then redirect the question to them. To exit a conversation with grace, offer something of value: information they might find useful, a connection or introduction, an organization you belong to, or an award you think they should be nominated for.

Don't fret about what you said. What impacts people isn't the words or content used, but how they felt to be speaking with you. Chapter 8: Speaking - and Listening - with Charisma.

If what you’re thinking about is what you want to say next, your lack of presence will be written all over your face. Master listeners never interrupt, let themselves be interrupted, and pause two seconds before they answer. Your face absorbs, then reacts, and then you answer. We associate feelings with sights, sounds, tastes, smells, places, and, of course, people. Others will associate with you the way you make them feel. Downplaying a compliment sends a message to your admirer that they were wrong to compliment you.

Stop, absorb the compliment, let that show on your face, and thank them instead. Acting interested and even impressed with someone will make them feel great about themselves, and then in turn associate all those feelings with you. When you speak in words, your brain translates them to concepts, then concepts to images. Speak in images directly, and make them sensory-rich.

Avoid using 'no problem' or 'don't worry,' because people will remember 'problem' or 'hurry.' Rephrase, like 'we'll take care of it.' .

Attention is a precious resource. When people read your writing or listen to you, deliver high value through entertainment, information, or good feelings.

Audience ratings for a lecture are more strongly influenced by delivery style than by content. Your voice is key to communicating warmth and power. To project power, speak slowly with frequent pauses, use a baritone voice, drop intonation, and breathe through your nose. To project warmth, smile. Even thinking about smiling is enough to give your voice warmth.

Chapter 9: Charismatic Body Language. When in agreement, nonverbal signals amplify verbal signals. When in conflict, we trust the nonverbal signal over the verbal signal. In high-stakes situations, we react more strongly to body language than to words because our fight-or-flight response activates a primal part of our brain. Imitating someone's body language, called mirroring, activates deep instincts of trust and liking.


For discretion, be selective, vary your amplitude, and lag behind your actions. Mirror-then-lead is a useful strategy when the person you're mirroring needs reassurance, such as when timid, anxious, or awkward. To establish rapport, sit next to or at a 90 degree angle to someone.

People at opposite ends of a table tend to speak in shorter sentences, and are more likely to argue. We experience separation distress whenever someone maintaining significant eye contact with us turns away. To avoid this, keep eye contact for three seconds at the end of your interaction with someone. Counter lack of eye contact due to shyness or distraction by delving into sensations.

Pay attention to your sensations, and look at the different colors in their eyes. Charismatic eye contact means switching to a softer focus. Focus on the empty space around you in the room, and then the space filling the entire universe. No matter your appearance, title, or even through others' deference, a body language of insecurity will kill charisma on the spot. People who assume expansive poses experience a measurable psychological shift.

You will feel more confident and more powerful. To increase poise, avoid nodding more than once, excessive verbal reassurance, and restlessness or fidgeting. Broadcasting too much power can appear arrogant or intimidating. Counter this with warmth-enhancing techniques, like keeping your eyes in soft focus. Punctuating your interaction with nonverbal and verbal reassurance can still help make a shy colleague or subordinate feel comfortable and open up. Chapter 10: Difficult Situations. If someone is difficult, recall something they've already done for you, and express your gratitude.

They'll rationalize their actions in your favor: 'I went all out for him, so I must like him.' . The most effective and credible compliments are personal and specific. When you show people how they've impacted you, they feel that in a sense they've made you.

Reminding people that they chose you, your company, your service, or your suggestion is one of the best ways to maintain their support for you or your idea. With a toxic person, write an alternate reality for a compassion boost. Getting into empathy will protect your mental and emotional state, and give you the right body language. For difficult conversations, consider both timing and location. Before you pick up the phone or sit down to talk, imagine what mental state they might be in.

The right body language for bad news is one of warmth: care, concern, understanding, and empathy. Demonstrate as much kindness charisma as you can. When delivering criticism, think about the timing and location, get into a mindset of compassion and empathy, decide exactly what points you want to make, and depersonalize. To truly depersonalize criticism, don't mention their actions at all, and just explain what's going on for you: 'When I don't see a finished presentation until the last minute, I feel anxious.' .

When delivering critical feedback, start on a positive note. Then tell them what you want to see from them, as opposed to what you don't want to see. Depersonalize the behavior change. If you sense defensiveness, dial up your warmth. Mention something they've done well in the past.


Display on your face a state of goodwill, and let their mirror neurons replicate the emotions they see in you. End critical feedback with next steps, appreciation of how well they took your feedback, and anything that both of you can look forward to in the future. When you apologize in person, you have the greatest number of tools at your disposal: body language, facial expressions, vocal tone, and choice of words. When apologizing, first hear them out without rebutting and fully understand. Then say you're sorry with thoughtfulness and concern.

Show that you understand the consequences, and steps to ensure it won't happen again. On the phone, communicate presence. Use the same body language you would use in person. Answer the phone crisply and professionally, and then after you hear who is calling, let warmth and enthusiasm emanate. Chapter 11: Presenting with Charisma.

When presenting, select the single most important idea and present it crystal clear, in one sentence. It should have three supporting points, because we think in triads. Each point should open with stories, metaphors, analogies, numbers, and statistics that your audience can relate to. Close with a clear point or a transition to the step you want the audience to take. Audiences remember beginnings and endings, so don't end with a Q&A. Let the audience ask questions during the presentation; this increases their participation and energy level. When crafting your sentences, use the word you as often as possible, create sensory-rich graphics, beware negations, and keep them short.

Avoid irritants, or sounds or movements that do not add to your message. Every one of them is a form of communication that demands a portion of your audience's attention. To project power and own the stage, adopt a wide stance, practice without a podium or lectern, and find the right volume to project confidence.

The Charisma Myth Summary

To project warmth, speak as if you were sharing a secret, and give one or two seconds of eye contact per person as you roam the stage. Pause frequently and deliberately. Have the confidence to make your listeners wait for your words.

Also pause for three seconds after you first walk on stage, while sweeping your eyes across the audience. If you make a mistake, tell yourself that moguls and entertainers do this to make themselves more relatable.

De-stigmatize and de-dramatize. Make a speech all about your audience. This takes the focus off yourself, lifts your self-consciousness, and puts you into a state of goodwill. Chapter 12: Charisma in Crisis.

People facing an emergency are more readily affected by a leader's magnetism. Respond with bold, decisive actions to be perceived as charismatic. To gain charisma in a crisis, retain equanimity, express high expectations, articulate a vision, articulate a vision illustrating the destination and how to get there, then be bold and decisive. Crisis creates uncertainty, which creates angst, and people will cling to whatever they feel diminishes this angst, such as faith, vision, and authority. Chapter 13: The Charismatic Life. To curb the envy of someone, send them an email appreciating what they've done for you, highlighting an example, and showing their positive impact.

It gives them a vested interest in your success. If someone begins to reveal too much due to your charisma, interject with a 'me too' story. If that fails, put their revelations in the context of everything you know about them, or make them feel admired for having shared so much. To cope with always being under the spotlight, allow yourself to be human. Accept humanity and show your humanity. Accept vulnerability and show vulnerability.

To refine your practice of vulnerability, pay attention to not just what you share but how you feel when you're sharing. When you become charismatic and things start happening easily for you, don't assume that these things happen just as easily or smoothly for other people. Jump to Line.

DAN’S SCORE: The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism by Olivia Fox Cabane I’ve been wanting to read this book for three years now when I first heard a podcast with the author, Olivia Fox Carbane, at The premise of the book is that charisma is not necessarily something someone is born with. Its something that people can learn and use as a weapon in their leadership arsenal. HTC One M9. I’m often confounded on how one changes people’s minds and paradigms. I started thinking about how Deming emphasized the importance of psychology. He usually talked about it in reference to how people learn or are motivated, but shouldn’t we also use psychology to change people’s minds?

Charisma would be an awesome thing to have in a change agent’s tool belt. Here are some of my biggest takeaways:. The book starts off with an example of how Marilyn Monroe could turn her charisma on and off at will. The story goes Munroe was riding in a train with a reporter in New York, but no one knew who she was.

Then all of the sudden, Munroe just turned ‘on’ and she was suddenly mobbed. The three sources of charisma is presence, power, and warmth. Of these, Cabane said if you can just master presence, you will have a tremendous advantage. Cabane says its important to focus on your internal charisma before focusing on the external. This will give you a solid foundation so you can always be ‘on’ when you need to be–don’t be caught flatfooted or unaware.

You must be prepared mentally for tough situations to retain your charisma. One of my big takeaways was her admonition to get used to being in uncomfortable situations.

She said to learn to recognize when you are uncomfortable and then purposely invite it (like standing the wrong direction in a crowded elevator). You will soon get used to be in uncomfortable situations and won’t be so easily flapped. For someone who doesn’t like being in uncomfortable situations, this was a big lightbulb and one I’ve thought about a lot lately and have started to practice. Some tips for becoming stronger mentally–rewrite reality (she said charismatic people are often living in their own weird world), visualization (she said create happy situations before hand–things that really get you jazzed–then being it to mind when you are feeling low), visualize a hug (it releases oxytocin and will calm you), or create an imaginary advisory council in your mind (Napoleon Hill did this). She said its very important to have a lot of self compassion. There are different types of charisma including visionary and focused charisma. Body language is important.

It can change your mood and behavior. The one thing she suggests is to be the big gorilla. Make yourself take up space and act powerful–like a gorilla. I’ve used this a lot.

It seems to work. I at least feel more confident.

She said to treat everyone like they are the star of their own movie you are watching. She says to dress like the people you are trying to influence–though dress on the upper edge of it (i.e.–dress like everyone, but be the one who is better dressed than most). She said its part of our tribal instincts. We want to be around people who look like us. She had other advice in the book for negotiating and giving good presentations. The author says that for those who master charisma, they often feel alone. They are always expected to do more and achieve great things.

Those who are charismatic and don’t deliver will be destroyed by a disappointed society. Cabane said once charisma is mastered, it can be extremely powerful. She pointed out that for some time, leadership gurus said it was a bad thing to use charisma. Peter Drucker said it was dangerous and pointed out the most charismatic people of the 20th century were Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and Mao. She warned charisma can be like a knife. It can be used to heal or used to harm and it must be used responsibly. Does all this work?

Yes, I believe so. After reading this book, I feel more charismatic and I’ve felt my confidence growing. I already feel like I may be better influencing people.

Personal Development

I’m going to be studying this book and applying its principles more often. I listened to the book on Audible, but plan to get a hard copy. The book can be bought.