7 Ways to Increase Your Charisma, According to Psychologists

Anyone can become more charming and engaging over time--all it takes is a little practice.

7 Ways to Increase Your Charisma, According to Psychologists

As is the case with most personality traits, some people are naturally more charismatic than others. (Think Oprah Winfrey or Bill Clinton.)

But contrary to popular belief, anyone can become more charismatic over time.

"Charisma is simply the result of learned behaviors," says Olivia Fox Cobane, author of "The Charisma Myth."

In fact, Ronald Riggio, a professor at Claremont McKenna College who's spent years researching the development of this mysterious quality, has found that there are many people with untapped "charisma potential." Riggio described experimentsin which researchers have successfully trained people on specific social and emotional skills that contribute to charisma.

We spoke to Riggio about some of those skills and checked out other scientific research on strategies for developing charisma. Below, we've rounded up seven easy ways to become more charismatic.

Additional reporting by Drake Baer.

1. Start showing more expression in your face.

One strategy Riggio recommends is being more expressive with your face. "Learn to express emotions more clearly and more accurately," he told Business Insider.

Writing for Psychology Today, Riggio suggested practicing different expressions in a mirror and soliciting feedback from others on how well you're communicating your feelings.

The flipside of showing more emotion in your face is to learn how to control your expressions. Instead of letting everyone know you're angry or frustrated, you should try to appear what Riggio called "calm, cool, and collected in social interactions."

2. Listen actively to what people are saying.

"Active listening" is another key skill related to charisma.

On Psychology Today, Riggio describes it as "focusing in on what the other person is saying and reflecting back what you are hearing, rather than focusing on what you want to say."

3. Practice reading other people's emotions.

During charisma training, researchers took clips from soap operas and had participants watch them without any sound. Then they asked participants to figure out what was going on in the scenes.

Even if you don't employ the silent soap opera strategy, you can still watch people's faces closely to become more attuned to nonverbal cues.

4. Share stories and anecdotes.

A team of researchers led by John Antonakis at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland trained a group of leaders to become more charismatic.

One skill they taught was using stories and anecdotes while speaking. Writing in The Harvard Business Review, the researchers say "stories and anecdotes ... make messages more engaging and help listeners connect with the speaker."

For example, one manager they studied motivated her reports during a crisis by comparing the current situation to her experience climbing a mountain during dangerous weather conditions. "Working together," the manager told her reports, "we managed to survive. And we made what at first seemed impossible, possible. Today we are in an economic storm, but by pulling together, we can turn this situation around and succeed."

5. Ask rhetorical questions.

"Rhetorical questions might seem hackneyed," the researchers write in The Harvard Business Review, "but charismatic leaders use them all the time to encourage engagement."

Whether you're speaking to a large audience or a single individual, this strategy can be useful. One manager in the study motivated an underperforming employee by asking, "So, where do you want to go from here? Will it be back to your office feeling sorry for yourself? Or do you want to show what you are capable of achieving?"

6. Set high goals, and express confidence that you can achieve them.

When leaders set the bar high and genuinely think their team can hit it, Antonakis and colleagues say they both show and inspire passion.

They cite the example of an engineer whose team was given a deadline that would be hard to meet. The engineer told the team, "I know you can rise to the challenge. I believe in each one of you." 

7. Use words that people can relate to.

In his book "Why Presidents Succeed," University of California at Davis psychologist Dean Keith Simonton argues that the most effective communicators use concrete--rather than abstract--language.

"'I feel your pain' has association," he tells the APA Monitor, "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."

This story first appeared on Business Insider

Dec 21, 2015
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