Can charisma really be measured? When you think of someone who oozes charisma, you probably think of big names like Oprah Winfrey, Tony Robbins, or Will Smith. These people have a way of lighting up a room and drawing you into whatever they are saying or doing. They carry a different kind of energy, an energy that seems to radiate and infect everyone around them. As a result, they are instantly likable. But what if you’re not rich, famous, or even particularly good looking – can you still be charismatic?
For hundreds of years, people have assumed that charisma is a magical quality, an X-factor that you’re either born with or not. It certainty can’t be learned. Movies like The Princess Diaries or the Devil Wears Prada, where a nerd is transformed into a charismatic beauty queen, can’t really happen. You can’t practice your way to becoming Anne Hathaway. Or can you? Recent research is showing that there’s a science to being likable. Charisma, it turns out, can be measured and improved.
Measuring Charisma, The SocioMeter:
Imagine studying the body language, facial expressions, and vocal tones of Will Smith and Brad Pitt. What would they have in common? Could you measure it? Alex Pentland, Ph.D., a researcher at the MIT Human Dynamics Laboratory, invented a gadget called a sociometer that is able to detect and measure charismatic actions by tracking body movement and speech patterns. Dr. Pentland and his colleagues found that people who use a lot of unconscious gestures and expressions when they communicate are more likeable and more successful at persuading other people. However, expressiveness alone is not enough to make you magnetic.
The 4 Qualities of Charisma:
Charisma is a combination of four qualities. In addition to expressiveness, charming people also display control, sensitivity, and contrast.
Expressiveness, Control & Sensitivity:
In O Magazine, Ronald Riggio, PhD, a professor of organizational psychology at Claremont McKenna College, concluded that charismatic people display healthy levels of expressiveness, control, and sensitivity. Dr. Riggio describes expressiveness as the ability to spontaneously strike up conversations and easily convey feelings. He describes control as the ability to fine-tune your persona to fit the mood and social makeup of any group, and he describes sensitivity as the ability to listen and read other people’s mindsets.
The Power of Contrast:
The final and most important component of a charismatic personality is contrast. Contrasting your persona, or displaying two opposing characteristics simultaneously, adds depth to your personality. It also adds mystery. By being two things at once, you create layers – layers that other people will want to peel back. You also create a paradox that other people will want to resolve. As a result, people will be drawn to you.
Mysteriousness is not a mystery. John Neffinger, the founder of KNP Communications, teaches clients how to be more charismatic by helping them focus on the critical non-verbal aspects of communication. Drawing on the work of Harvard and Princeton psychologists as well as the American National Election Studies, KNP enforces a particular combination of traits: strength and warmth. In an interview with the Boston Globe, Neffinger concluded that strength is primarily conveyed with posture with good, erect posture, while warmth is primarily conveyed with a genuine, confident smile.
Charm your way. Replication is not charismatic. If you’re aiming to improve your charisma, don’t copy other people. Instead, focus on expressing who you are. Be controlled and sensitive in your own way. And then, stand up straight and smile. Practice is the only thing separating you from a more charming version of yourself.
About The Author:
Isaiah Hankel is a scientist, writer, and speaker. He is the author of Black Hole Focus: How Intelligent People Can Create a Powerful Purpose for Their Lives. The tagline for his personal website is Experiments In Cheeky Science. In 2011, Isaiah graduated from the University of Iowa with my Ph.D. in Anatomy and Cell Biology. Since graduating, he has been working as a specialist in the fields of flow cytometry and cellular imaging, while simultaneously providing professional development services to clients around the world. Over the past two years, Isaiah has given over 250 seminars in 20 different countries throughout Europe, New Zealand, Australia and North America. Recently, Isaiah founded Cheeky Scientist, a company that provides personal development for intelligent people.