Book: The Charisma Myth

The Charisma Myth

“The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism” by Olivia Fox Cabane. Back in 2012, I listened to this presentation by the author and wanted to dive in a little deeper by reading her book. Two and half years later, I finally made the time to read this book and here are my notes:

  • “charisma is the result of specific nonverbal behaviors, not an inherent or magical personal quality. This is one of the reasons why charisma levels fluctuate: its presence depends on whether or not someone is exhibiting these behaviors.”
  • Basic techniques:
    “• Lower the intonation of your voice at the end of your sentences.
    • Reduce how quickly and how often you nod.
    • Pause for two full seconds before you speak.”
  • “The very next time you’re in a conversation, try to regularly check whether your mind is fully engaged or whether it is wandering elsewhere (including preparing your next sentence). Aim to bring yourself back to the present moment as often as you can by focusing on your breath or your toes for just a second, and then get back to focusing on the other person.”
  • “Lao Tzu reportedly said: ‘To know others is knowledge. To know oneself is wisdom.'”
  • “What Your Mind Believes, Your Body Manifests”
  • “Being present—paying attention to what’s going on rather than being caught up in your thoughts—can yield immense rewards. When you exhibit presence, those around you feel listened to, respected, and valued.”
  • “In terms of achieving charisma, your internal state is critical. Get the internal state right, and the right charismatic behaviors and body language will pour forth automatically.”
  • “The next time an uncomfortable emotion is bothering you, try this step-by-step guide to destigmatizing:
    1. Remember that uncomfortable emotions are normal, natural, and simply a legacy of our survival instincts. We all experience them from time to time.
    2. Dedramatize: this is a common part of human experience that happens every day.
    3. Think of others who’ve gone through this before, especially people you admire.
    4. See it as one burden shared by many. You are part of a community of human beings experiencing this one feeling at this very moment.”
  • “Don’t assume your thoughts are accurate. Just because your mind comes up with something doesn’t necessarily mean it has any validity. Assume you’re missing a lot of elements, many of which could be positive.”
  • “Assign a label to your negative experience: self-criticism, anger, anxiety, etc. Just naming what you are thinking and feeling can help you neutralize it.”
  • “Depersonalize the experience. Rather than saying ‘I’m feeling ashamed,’ try ‘There is shame being felt.’ Imagine that you’re a scientist observing a phenomenon: ‘How interesting, there are self-critical thoughts arising.'”
  • “Imagine your mental chatter as coming from a radio; see if you can turn down the volume, or even just put the radio to the side and let it chatter away.
  • Consider the worst-case outcome for your situation. Realize that whatever it is, you’ll survive.
  • Think of all the previous times when you felt just like this—that you wouldn’t make it through—and yet clearly you did.”
  • “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
  • “The exercise below will give you one good way to alleviate resentment.”
  • “Think of one person in your life who has aggrieved you.
    • Take a blank page and write that person a letter saying anything and everything you wish you had ever told them. Really get into this—you have nothing to lose. Make sure you write it out by hand.
    • When you’ve gotten absolutely everything off your mind and onto paper, put the letter aside.
    • Take a fresh sheet and write their response just the way you wish they would respond. You might have them taking responsibility for their actions, acknowledging and apologizing for everything they’ve ever done that hurt you. You don’t need to find any justification for their actions, just an acknowledgment and an apology. It’s your imagination, so you get to decide exactly what you’d like to hear.”
  • “Destigmatize and dedramatize uncomfortable feelings by remembering that they are survival instincts and a natural part of the human experience. Think of others who’ve gone through this before—especially people you admire—and see yourself as part of a community of human beings experiencing the same feeling at the same moment.”
  • “Neutralize unhelpful negative thoughts by remembering that the mind often distorts reality and filters your environment to highlight the negative. Think of your negative thoughts as graffiti on a wall—you may find it an ugly sight, but just because you see an ugly sight doesn’t mean you’re an ugly person.”
  • “a twenty-second hug is enough to send oxytocin coursing through your veins, and that you can achieve the same effect just by imagining the hug.”
  • “Gratitude has a special advantage for those of us who sometimes find it uncomfortable to connect with others.”
  • “gratitude helps you live longer, healthier, and even happier.”
  • “in any interaction, imagine the person you’re speaking to, and all those around you, as having invisible angel wings.”
  • “Goodwill means that you wish someone well without necessarily knowing how they’re feeling.
  • Empathy means that you understand what they feel; perhaps you’ve had a similar experience in the past.
  • Compassion is empathy plus goodwill: you understand how they feel, and you wish them well.”
  • “first comes empathy, the ability to understand what someone is feeling, to detect distress; second, sympathy, being emotionally moved by distress; and third, compassion, which arises with the desire to care for the well-being of the distressed person.”
    1. “Imagine their past. What if you had been born in their circumstances, with their family and upbringing? What was it like growing up in their family situation with whatever they experienced as a child? It’s often said that everyone you meet has stories to tell, and that everyone has a few that would break your heart. Consider also that if you had experienced everything they have experienced, perhaps you would have turned out just like they have.
    2. Imagine their present. Really try to put yourself in their shoes right now. Imagine what it feels like to be them today. Put yourself in their place, be in their skin, see through their eyes. Imagine what they might be feeling right now—all the emotions they might be holding inside.
    3. If you really need compassion dynamite, look at them and ask: What if this were their last day alive? You can even imagine their funeral. You’re at their funeral, and you’re asked to say a few words about them. You can also imagine what you’d say to them after they’d already died.”
  • “Self-confidence is our belief in our ability to do or to learn how to do something.
  • Self-esteem is how much we approve of or value ourselves. It’s often a comparison-based evaluation (whether measured against other people or against our own internal standards for approval).
  • Self-compassion is how much warmth we can have for ourselves, especially when we’re going through a difficult experience.”
  • “self-compassion is feeling that what happened to you is unfortunate, whereas self-pity is feeling that what happened to you is unfair.”
  • “self-compassion as a three-step process: First, realizing that we’re experiencing difficulties. Second, responding with kindness and understanding toward ourselves when we are suffering or feel inadequate, rather than being harshly self-critical. Third, realizing that whatever we’re going through is commonly experienced by all human beings, and remembering that everyone goes through difficult times.”
  • Self-compassion practice: Metta
    • “Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and take two or three deep breaths. As you inhale, imagine drawing in masses of clean air toward the top of your head; then let it whoosh through you from head to toe as you exhale, washing all concerns away.
    • Think of any occasion in your life when you performed a good deed, however great or small. Just one good action—one moment of truth, generosity, or courage. Focus on that memory for a moment.
    • Now think of one being, whether present or past, mythical or actual—Jesus, Buddha, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama—who could have great affection for you. This could be a person, a pet, or even a stuffed animal.
    • Picture this being in your mind. Imagine their warmth, their kindness and compassion. See it in their eyes and face. Feel their warmth radiating toward you, enveloping you.
    • See yourself through their eyes with warmth, kindness, and compassion. Feel them giving you complete forgiveness for everything your inner critic says is wrong. You are completely and absolutely forgiven. You have a clean slate.
    • Feel them giving you wholehearted acceptance. You are accepted as you are, right now, at this stage of growth, imperfections and all.
    • You are perfect. At this stage of development, you are perfect.
    • At this stage of growth, you are perfect.
    • At this stage of perfection, you are perfect.
    • With everything that’s in your head and heart, you are perfect.
    • With all your imperfections, you are perfect.
    • For this phase of growth, you are perfect.
    • You are fully approved just the way you are, at this stage of development, right now.”
  • Using Your Body to Change Your Mind
    • “For confidence, assertiveness, and to be able to emanate gravitas, imagine playing the role of a military general—take a wide stance, puff up your chest, broaden your shoulders, stand straight, and confidently put your arms behind your back. Feel the effect of this posture internally.
    • For a boost in both energy and warmth, stand up, stretch your hands as high up as possible, inhale as much as you can—imagine your rib cage expanding, doubling in size—make the biggest smile you can and look upward, hold for a second, and then relax everything.”
  • “Focus charisma is primarily based on a perception of presence. It gives people the feeling that you are fully present with them, listening to them and absorbing what they say. Focus charisma makes people feel heard, listened to, and understood.”
  • Handshake:
    “1.First things first: make sure your right hand is free. Shift anything it may be holding to your left hand well in advance. You don’t want to have to fumble at the last moment.
    2.Avoid holding a drink in your right hand, especially if it’s a cold drink, as the condensation will make your hand feel cold and clammy.
    3.Before shaking someone’s hand, whether you are a man or a woman, rise if you’re seated. And keep your hands out of your pockets: visible hands make you look more open and honest.
    4.Make sure to use plenty of eye contact, and smile warmly but briefly: too much smiling could make you appear overeager.
    5.Keep your head straight, without tilting it in any way, and face the person fully.
    6.Keep your hand perfectly perpendicular, neither dominant (palm down) nor submissive (palm up). If you’re in doubt, angle your thumb straight to the ceiling.
    7.Open wide the space between your thumb and index finger to make sure you get optimal thumb-web contact.
    8.Ensure contact between the palms of your hands by keeping your palm flat—not cupped—and by draping your hand across your partner’s diagonally.
    9.Try to wrap your fingers around your partner’s hand, scaling them one by one, as if you were giving a hug with your hand. You will almost have your index finger on their pulse—almost, but not quite.
    10.Once full contact is made, lock your thumb down and squeeze firmly, about as much as your partner does. Shake from the elbow (not the wrist), linger for a moment if you want to convey particular warmth, and step back.”
  • “the one word that should pop up most often in your conversation is not I but you. Instead of saying ‘I read a great article on that subject in the New York Times,’ try ‘You might enjoy the recent New York Times article on the subject.’ Or simply insert ‘You know…’ before any sentence to make them instantly perk up and pay attention.”
  • “Good listeners know never, ever to interrupt—not even if the impulse to do so comes from excitement about something the other person just said.”
  • “Great listeners know to let others interrupt them. When someone interrupts you, let them!”
  • “one simple but extraordinarily effective habit that will make people feel truly listened to and understood: they pause before they answer.”
  • “The next time you’re given a compliment, the following steps will help you skillfully handle the moment:
    1. Stop.
    2. Absorb the compliment. Enjoy it if you can.
    3. Let that second of absorption show on your face. Show the person that they’ve had an impact.
    4. Thank them. Saying “Thank you very much” is enough, but you can take it a step further by thanking them for their thoughtfulness or telling them that they’ve made your day.”
  • “As Dale Carnegie said, ‘You can make more friends in two months by becoming truly interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.'”
  • Vocal Power: “If your goal is to communicate power, set the pitch, tone, volume, and tempo of your voice in the following ways:
    • Pitch and tone: The lower, more resonant, and more baritone your voice, the more impact it will have.
    • Volume: One of the first things an actor learns to do on stage is to project his voice, which means gaining the ability to modulate its volume and aim it in such a targeted way that specific portions of the audience can hear it, even from afar. One classic exercise to hone your projection skills is to imagine that your words are arrows. As you speak, aim them at different groups of listeners.
    • Tempo: A slow, measured tempo with frequent pauses conveys confidence.”
  • “Business guru Alan Weiss likes to say, ‘Logic makes people think. Emotion makes them act.’ Which would you rather have? If you speak only to people’s logical mind, you’re missing half the playing field.”
  • Charismatic Eyes: “To truly understand how different your face appears when your eyes are relaxed and open, go see the transformation for yourself.
    • Find a room with a mirror where you won’t be disturbed for a few minutes.
    • Close your eyes and think of a recent annoyance—some minor issue that’s been bugging you lately, or an unpleasant task such as doing your taxes.
    • When you feel the irritation take hold, open your eyes and look closely in the mirror. Note the tension around your eyes, their narrowness.
    • Now close your eyes and think of something that would induce warm feelings—a recent pleasant experience, like time spent with a good friend.
    • When the warmth has arisen, open your eyes and look at that precise kind of relaxation. That’s what warmth looks like.
    • Close your eyes once more and think of an exciting time when you felt full of confidence and on top of the world—receiving a triumph, an award, some brilliant news.
    • When you’ve accessed the feeling of confidence, open your eyes again and note closely what they look like now. That’s what confidence looks like.”
  • “Follow these seven steps to convey confident body language:
    1. Make sure you can breathe. Loosen any clothing if need be.
    2. Stand up and shake up your body.
    3. Take a wide stance and plant your feet firmly on the ground. A wide, stable stance helps you both feel and project more confidence.
    4. Stretch your arms to the ceiling, trying to touch it with your fingertips.
    5. Now stretch your arms to the walls on either side of you, trying to touch them.
    6. Bring your arms loosely to your sides, and roll your shoulders up and then back.
    7. INFLATE. Try to take up as much space as possible. Imagine puffing up like a gorilla, doubling in size.”
  • “Getting into empathy will protect your mental and emotional state, and give you the right body language throughout. If you’re in an adversarial mindset, this will be written across your face. Empathy will help you get into a collaborative mindset instead, giving you a great body language in addition to making the interaction far easier to handle. This is why kindness charisma can be a surprisingly effective tool in dealing with difficult people.”
  • “There are four crucial steps to charismatically delivering criticism.
    First, think about your timing and the location. Try to be as empathetic as possible in your choice of both.”
  • “Second, get into the right mindset, one of compassion and empathy.”
  • “Third, decide exactly what points you want to make: be specific.”
  • “Fourth, depersonalize. As much as possible, communicate that what you’re critiquing is the behavior, not the person.”
  • “Do not answer the phone in a warm or friendly manner. Instead, answer crisply and professionally. Then, only after you hear who is calling, let warmth or even enthusiasm pour forth in your voice.”
  • Charisma in a Crisis:
    • “First, retain at least a certain measure of equanimity.”
    • “Second, express high expectations.”
    • “Third, articulate a vision.”

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