Bill Clinton has it. Hillary Clinton not so much. Mick Jagger's a big yes. Bob Dylan? He's a no. Tom Cruise has it in spades but if Bruce Willis ever had it, it went with his hair.
Charisma can look like a random characteristic, a part of personality that's as inherited as eye color and as arbitrary as male pattern baldness. It's not something you can see, but you know it when you feel it. Some people just have a knack of working a room, winning attention and making everyone they speak to feel like they're the most important person they've ever met.
Knack or not, psychologists now believe that charisma isn't a personality trait but a skill that can be learned and honed. They've identified a number of characteristics that anyone can adopt to boost their charisma and increase their charm.
1. Create Empathy
We all want to feel understood so showing that you empathize with the person you're speaking to--or with an audience you're addressing--will help to draw that audience towards you. But you can go even further.
You can make the audience feel empathy with you.
That's what stories and anecdotes do. Tell them well and the listener will be walking in your shoes, seeing the world as you see it, experiencing events that you've experienced. They'll feel the same emotions that you felt and they'll feel they understand you. It's why charismatic musicians give a brief story before they launch into a song while bands that just go from number to number often leave us feeling cold.
2. Show Confidence
When someone takes a bold stand, we can relax, put aside our own doubts and put trust in their certainty. As long as we agree with them, we can stand behind them and let them take the heat from opponents.
Showing that confidence isn't easy... if you're not the naturally confident type. But one way to find the confidence you need is to focus on this things that you are sure about. When Bono takes a stand on global poverty, for example, he discusses a topic about which he feels strongly. Sure, some people find it sanctimonious but for people who agree with him, his sureness, his passion and his stand all become part of the charisma that draws them to him.
3. Be Clear
Confidence is a part of charisma because it delivers trust. Clarity brings understanding. Issues that looked confusing now appear obvious, allowing the listener to take a position and lay aside their own doubts. That clarity produces gratitude for the person who showed them what they were missing.
Keep your explanations simple. Boil them down to lists: "There are three things you need to understand..." Find the basic facts with which everyone can agree, and focus on them. When you see eyes open and heads nod, you know your charisma is winning them over.
4. Activate The Audience
Charismatic leaders don't just talk. They engage. They make the audience a part of the performance. They throw out rhetorical questions like "Is everyone having a great time today?" and they use call and respond techniques to get people moving. They force the audience to collaborate and they give them an experience instead of a lecture.
Charisma is never about one person's personality; it's about the emotional effect that person has on everyone they meet. That's something you can learn... and practice.