Imagine you can pick one person--not a family member, significant other or close friend--as a row mate to converse with on a four-hour plane trip. Who would it be? What traits or characteristics does this person possess that make you want to spend this time talking, instead of feigning sleep, working on a laptop or reading?

Most likely, this person can be described as charming, which Merriam-Webster describes as "extremely pleasing or delightful." How would your career and life be different if more people perceived you that way? Here's how to make it happen.

1. Demonstrate that you're truly happy to see someone.

Charming individuals look people in the eyes while simultaneously shining a genuine smile.

Count how many people during the course of your day really see you, and bless you with a positive countenance. You'll likely find the majority of the people in your world are too self-absorbed or busy to take the time. Yet, science has shown that a smile is the one simple thing which can make you more likeable.

One of the most charming people I've ever met was an orthopedic resident at the Mayo Clinic who was part of a team caring for my son a few years ago. Every single time he stopped by to check on my son, he lit us up by taking the time to talk--asking about our lives, listening to our answers and sharing his own stories with us. What did we find delightful about him? He exuded positivity while conveying a genuine interest in us. This can't be faked.

2. Be a fantastic conversationalist.

I once sat next to a guy at an industry conference dinner who made an impression because he was such a joy to talk with. While I don't remember his name, I do recall laughing a lot and thoroughly enjoying myself for the short time we were table mates. This is weird, but I asked him if he had any advice on how to be a better conversationalist (only writers actually make these kinds of queries).

"Do stuff," he said, meaning if you want to be interesting you need to take risks, go in the other direction and otherwise get off the couch. A wealth of life experiences makes excellent fodder for conversation.

Also, it helps to stay up-to-date on the news. You certainly can't discuss what's going on in the world if you don't know what's going on in the world.

3. Don't hog the stage.

Confidence is a trait highly correlated with success. But there's a fine line between confidence and narcissism. Genuinely charming people find ways to include quiet and introverted individuals in a conversation without feeling the need to sermonize or entertain a group all on their own.

4. Cultivate inquisitiveness.

In other words, be curious, ask questions and listen to the answers. This sounds like an elementary thing, but lots of people suck at being inquisitive.

In fact, the opposite is more often the norm. My family was recently seated at a table with another family during a wedding reception and I found myself aghast at the lopsided conversation I spent an hour having with the medical doctor sitting next to me. No doubt this woman's IQ far exceeded my own, but not once did she ask me any simple question, such as "What do you do for a living?" Or "Where do you live?" I spent the drive home talking with my teenagers about the virtues of inquisitiveness and how I hoped they would take a genuine interest in the people with whom they make acquaintance.

5. Never, ever brag.

I'll bet the braggarts you know are your least favorite people. Bragging, name-dropping or otherwise intentionally trying to impress is repelling.

6. Sport a great handshake, shoulder squeeze or hug.

This one is a little tricky because people's comfort level with physical touch can be all over the place. But if you can gauge what will be comfortable for the person you're with, appropriate physical touch is a stellar way to communicate "I see you, and you're important to me."

If you can make people feel this way, you have charmed them.

Published on: Sep 23, 2016
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