Some people seem naturally charismatic. They walk into a room and people are drawn to them. They’re influential with employees, coworkers, and bosses. People just listen to them.
"Everyone has a different definition [of charisma]. One of the ones that I like is that it’s both a quality that makes people do whatever you want them to do as well as a quality that makes people, when you walk into a room, go, ‘Wow. Who’s that?’" says charisma coach Olivia Fox Cabane, author of The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism.
But charisma isn’t some secret society into which you’re born. You can learn how to be more charismatic. Here are six key areas that will make you more magnetic.
Your power isn’t related to your job title, but a combination of self-confidence, body language, facial expression, and voice, Cabane says. It’s tied to how others perceive you. Are you approachable and authoritative or nervous and fidgety?
Charismatic people aren’t always the ones with booming voices and hearty laughs. They are focused and comfortable with themselves, using voice levels and nonverbal cues that are appropriate for the situation, which may range from trying to motivate a room full of people to trying to comfort someone who is grieving or just received bad news.
One of the best ways to be more charismatic in any situation is to stay engaged in the conversation you’re having. If you’re thinking ahead to what you want to say next in a conversation or dwelling on how you just misspoke in your presentation, you’ll likely have disengaged or negative facial expressions. Those are turn-offs to your audience and can disrupt your ability to connect with them.
People with personal magnetism are able to draw others to them and get them to follow a way of thinking, says business consultant and speaker Tony Alessandra, Ph.D., author of Charisma: Seven Keys to Developing the Magnetism that Leads to Success. That ability to get people to follow you is an essential component of charisma because, "no idea, however great, gets anywhere until it’s adopted by other people," he says.
Persuasive people are enthusiastic about what they’re discussing or doing. They have demonstrated that they are trustworthy and are well-informed about the project or topic they’re discussing. When others have questions, charismatic people have answers—or, at least, have a logical plan or approach to find the answers.
It takes just a fraction of a second for people to form an opinion about you and once it’s there, it’s hard to change. One recent study from the University of Glasgow and Princeton University found that others size you up in in less than a second. So, pay attention to how you are presenting yourself. That’s not to say that you should walk around dressed to the nines all the time, but make sure that how you look and act is in keeping with who you are and what you’re trying to accomplish.
Charismatic people are also good at listening to and communicating with others. That communication goes beyond just speaking. They have mastery of others’ space and time. They don’t abuse time by being late or overly verbose. Respect for space means that they respect your personal space, not crowding you, making you uncomfortable, or touching you inappropriately, Alessandra says.
Warmth is a key component of charisma displayed in communication with others, Cabane adds. People will look for it in your eyes and want to hear it in your tone of voice.
Alessandra calls adaptability "the platinum rule." It’s your ability to treat others the way they want to be treated, regardless of how you feel about it. That means embracing diversity in all of its forms and being able to understand individual and cultural differences. When things change, charismatic people make an effort to understand and adjust their approach to make others feel comfortable and engaged. Change doesn’t throw them—they embrace it.
Charismatic people have a plan or message about which they’re enthusiastic, and they’re able to convey that vision and passion to others. What are your ideas? What makes you excited? To be more charismatic, work on projecting that belief and commitment—and how it will benefit your audience—in how you speak and relate to other people, Alessandra says.
"Whatever your objective, you’ll infrequently influence anyone to change their ideas or take action if you personally don’t feel strongly about it yourself," he says.