Can You Learn The Art Of Charisma?

Can You Learn The Art Of Charisma?

There’s no denying, charisma is a magical trait to possess. But while some people seem to be born with the quality, for others it most definitely doesn’t come naturally. The good news is, experts believe anyone can learn to be more charismatic – even the most socially awkward among us. SL found out how…

If there’s one man who can help, it’s ‘Mr Charisma’ – aka psychologist, former Priory therapist and public speaker Richard Reid. Offering one-to-one charisma classes and group workshops from his Mayfair practice, Pinnacle Therapy, he coaches everyone from celebrities and CEOs to people wanting to brush up their charm ahead of a performance review or best man speech.

“There's often a misconception that charisma is something we’re born with and that can’t be taught,” Reid tells us, explaining that (with the right advice) absolutely anyone can improve the impression they’re making. First and foremost, it’s essential to understand what charisma actually is.

“Charisma means different things to different people, but for me, it's all about emotional intelligence,” he says. “It’s about understanding the things that motivate us; the things that affect our performance; how we come across to others. So often we get caught up in what we need from situations, but charisma is very much about generating enthusiasm within other people – it’s the charm, character and appeal that radiates, and draws others in.”

Reid stresses that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work when it comes to teaching the skill: “If we look at politicians, we see lots of examples of people who’ve had charisma training that has backfired – they’ve all been taught the same techniques and it looks inauthentic.” Instead, he encourages clients to work with their natural talents and make the most of their own personality.

To do this, Reid recommends starting with self-awareness – what are you currently doing in social situations? And what are you not doing? Can you recognise the part your emotions are playing in your interactions?

“When we’re lacking in confidence, or are nervous or angry, we don’t tend to show the best of ourselves – and even if we think we’re hiding how we feel, it can still spill into our interactions,” he explains. “I call this ‘emotional leakage’, and it can unsettle other people.”

To keep your emotions under control, Reid says the first thing you should do is slow everything down – from the pace at which you speak to the way you walk into a room (that means resisting the urge to make a dash straight to the bar if you feel uncomfortable).

“The reptilian part of our brain – the part responsible for the fight-or-flight response – acts on impulse,” he explains. “Changing how you’d normally act is a ‘pattern interrupt’ – it’s not what the brain is expecting to happen so it has to revaluate the situation.”

If you make someone feel safe in your presence, they’ll come away feeling good about the experience and want to spend more time with you.

He also believes one of the easiest ways to manage your emotions – anxiety in particular – is to focus on the other person, rather than how you’re coming across to them: “In social settings, we often put ourselves first – does this person like me? Am I saying the right thing? But getting the other person to talk means you’re not having to constantly reinvent the wheel."

Not only does this take the pressure off you – meaning you’re more likely to be relaxed and the person you normally are – it also allows you to nail another key aspect of charisma: understanding what other people need and delivering it to them.

So how exactly can you identify someone else’s needs – especially if you’ve only just met them? For starters, there’s one universal desire Reid believes everyone shares: to feel safe. “If you make someone feel safe in your presence, not only will they act like the best version of themselves, they’ll come away feeling good about the experience and want to spend more time with you.”

The easiest way to make someone feel safe is to be in the moment. “We’re so often partially present, thinking about what we’re going to say next, or what’s just happened,” Reid tells us. “Being fully in the moment allows us to interpret things in real time – we can look at body language or the way people use their voice to pick up if they’re uncomfortable or dialled in to what we’ve just said and adjust the conversation accordingly.”

He also suggests asking a series of open questions to gauge what’s important to someone and what they’re feeling right now. These questions should be loosely based on ‘who, what, where, when, how’ – but very rarely ‘why’: “I encourage people to steer away from ‘why’ with people they don’t know too well, as it almost suggests there’s a value judgement around it: why did you do that?

He reveals that asking these types of questions in the first few minutes of a conversation can tell you a lot about the other person, including what motivates them; allowing you to tap into ways to reassure or bond with them. “The more artfully vague you can be with those questions, the more scope there is for someone to give more expansive answers – which will give you more material to work with,” Reid adds.

For example, if you’re at an event, don’t breake the ice with a new acquaintance with, ‘That talk was really great, wasn’t it?’, say, ‘What did you think of the talk?’. Instead of asking what company they’re from, ask what brings them here today? While these are small changes, and you’re still touching on the same subject, Reid says it makes a world of difference: “You’re not imposing on others, which allows them to be themselves, and you’re freeing up the conversation for them to take it wherever they want it to go.”

And a final tip? He strongly advocates personal branding. Citing Barack Obama as an example, Reid points out that the people we regard as being most charismatic have a strong personal brand – meaning we can easily list the characteristics associated with them. “While most of us have a sense of who we are and where we want to be, it’s not something we tend to consciously focus on,” he says. “Ask yourself: how do I want to come across? What do I want to bring out in the other person? And try to channel that into all your interactions.”

How charismatic are you? 7 key traits of charismatic people:

1. They’re interesting: They have a story to tell and a dynamite way of telling it.

2. They’re interested: They show total commitment to listening without distraction.

3. Their humour is spot on: Injected just at the right time, to the right level; well-judged, without offence.

4. They initiate good conversation: Whether chit-chat and small talk or current affairs, they make others feel at ease and always have something to say.

5. They’re influential: They bring others onboard with their power to influence in a positive way.

6. They’re assertive: They know just how to gain the right outcome, with compromise; but without pressure or heckles.

7. They have own their personal brand: They’re authentic, from the clothes they wear to the way they communicate. They’re great at being in their skin.
SheerLuxe readers can receive 20% OFF Charisma masterclasses and one-to-one coaching sessions with Richard Reid; email quoting the discount code LUXE20


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