The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism
by Olivia Fox Cabane
I’ve been wanting to read this book for three years now when I first heard a podcast with the author, Olivia Fox Carbane, at The Art of Manliness.
The premise of the book is that charisma is not necessarily something someone is born with. Its something that people can learn and use as a weapon in their leadership arsenal.
I’m often confounded on how one changes people’s minds and paradigms. I started thinking about how Deming emphasized the importance of psychology. He usually talked about it in reference to how people learn or are motivated, but shouldn’t we also use psychology to change people’s minds? Charisma would be an awesome thing to have in a change agent’s tool belt.
Here are some of my biggest takeaways:
- The book starts off with an example of how Marilyn Monroe could turn her charisma on and off at will. The story goes Munroe was riding in a train with a reporter in New York, but no one knew who she was. Then all of the sudden, Munroe just turned ‘on’ and she was suddenly mobbed.
- The three sources of charisma is presence, power, and warmth.
- Of these, Cabane said if you can just master presence, you will have a tremendous advantage.
- Cabane says its important to focus on your internal charisma before focusing on the external. This will give you a solid foundation so you can always be ‘on’ when you need to be–don’t be caught flatfooted or unaware. You must be prepared mentally for tough situations to retain your charisma.
- One of my big takeaways was her admonition to get used to being in uncomfortable situations. She said to learn to recognize when you are uncomfortable and then purposely invite it (like standing the wrong direction in a crowded elevator). You will soon get used to be in uncomfortable situations and won’t be so easily flapped. For someone who doesn’t like being in uncomfortable situations, this was a big lightbulb and one I’ve thought about a lot lately and have started to practice.
- Some tips for becoming stronger mentally–rewrite reality (she said charismatic people are often living in their own weird world), visualization (she said create happy situations before hand–things that really get you jazzed–then being it to mind when you are feeling low), visualize a hug (it releases oxytocin and will calm you), or create an imaginary advisory council in your mind (Napoleon Hill did this).
- She said its very important to have a lot of self compassion.
- There are different types of charisma including visionary and focused charisma.
- Body language is important. It can change your mood and behavior. The one thing she suggests is to be the big gorilla. Make yourself take up space and act powerful–like a gorilla. I’ve used this a lot. It seems to work. I at least feel more confident.
- She said to treat everyone like they are the star of their own movie you are watching.
- She says to dress like the people you are trying to influence–though dress on the upper edge of it (i.e.–dress like everyone, but be the one who is better dressed than most). She said its part of our tribal instincts. We want to be around people who look like us.
- She had other advice in the book for negotiating and giving good presentations.
- The author says that for those who master charisma, they often feel alone. They are always expected to do more and achieve great things. Those who are charismatic and don’t deliver will be destroyed by a disappointed society.
- Cabane said once charisma is mastered, it can be extremely powerful. She pointed out that for some time, leadership gurus said it was a bad thing to use charisma. Peter Drucker said it was dangerous and pointed out the most charismatic people of the 20th century were Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and Mao. She warned charisma can be like a knife. It can be used to heal or used to harm and it must be used responsibly.
Does all this work? Yes, I believe so. After reading this book, I feel more charismatic and I’ve felt my confidence growing. I already feel like I may be better influencing people. I’m going to be studying this book and applying its principles more often.
I listened to the book on Audible, but plan to get a hard copy. The book can be bought here.