Voice and Communication Coaching

What is charisma and can you get it?

News Posted: 5 March 2021

'I am indeed an object of beauty!'

'I am indeed an object of beauty!'

There are many, many definitions of charisma on the Internet. They usually start with defining the ancient Greek word – χάρισμα (pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable). The root of the Greek word charisma is χάρις(charis) meaning kindness, grace (of movement and speech) and charm. Someone possessing these qualities, in whichever ways they may manifest, has the gift of charisma.

Most modern day definitions of charisma preserve this idea of a gift you’re born with; an innate quality that permeates how you interact with the world. A person with charisma, we might think, is someone always in charge of him/herself, looks relaxed and knows what to say. They elicit positive responses from the people they meet. If you don't possess this quality - tough!

Are you born with charisma?

I would dispute the fact that you are born with charisma and that it’s an innate gift of genetics or divine providence. Rather, it’s a skills set that’s been integrated into the idiosyncratic nature and personality of a human being. These skills although they may be operating subconsciously in the charismatic person can be broken down into definable attributes.

People with Charisma have the following skills:

  1. Make other people feel good

Charismatic people can build rapport with a wide range of people with different personality types. People with charisma have behavioural flexibility that allows them to adapt their behaviour to the person they are talking to. When people talk to someone who communicates in a similar way they feel comfortable, listened to and understood. Making rapport allows charismatic people to achieve their outcomes professionally and personally because people are much more likely to go along with the ideas of someone who is like them.

  1. Engender Trust

This links very much to the above ability to build rapport. However, it goes one step further. Trust may start with an easy, comfortable rapport. However, you’ll only trust someone if you see an authentic, genuine person who you feel is being themselves. If you sense they are transparent and nothing is hidden, it’s natural to assume that what they’re saying is trustworthy.

  1. Have Presence

Presence is itself a difficult quality to define. When someone you’re talking to is 'present' they give you all of their attention. You feel you’re being listened to and seen. You feel you’re important. Who doesn’t want to feel that? Not only does a charismatic person bring their authentic self wholly to the interaction, they aren’t apologetic, stressed, self-seeking or over-bearing. A safe space has been created for both people to express themselves.

Presence is also reflected in your body and voice. Someone who is present has body language and a voice that is confident but doesn’t seek to dominate. Their gestures are open and their speech is committed. Presence is created by an alignment between body, mind, voice and communication.

  1. Have Warmth and Authority

People with charisma are able to be both authoritative and warm. Often we as individuals prefer one or the other style. A charismatic person is able to adopt the style that is more comfortable within the context of the moment. They can draw on whichever style most benefits that context and move from one style to the other easily and effortlessly.

  1. Communication Skills

People with charisma have the communication skills to successfully transmit the above four points in whatever situation they find themselves. This could be at a meeting, giving a presentation, with a group of friends or with their kids.

There is an effortless grace about how charismatic people communicate

Charisma - Extroversion and Introversion?

Since communication plays such a vital part in the creation of charisma we may associate extroversion as an important part of being charismatic. Extraversion may allow the component parts of charisma to emerge more readily - but I don’t think it’s a necessity. Academic papers and books on charisma in the workplace tend to define charisma in terms of extroversion and a larger than life persona. This can be limiting and short-sighted.

If introverts can access, project and communicate their authentic selves out into their environment they are on the way to being charismatic as much as their extrovert counterparts.

The Charisma Switch

I’ve recently been working with a client who is a physics graduate from Oxford University. He’s a trained accountant who now works as a financial analyst. His CV is impressive and entirely focused on logical and analytical qualifications and work history.

We worked on communication skills including voice work and presence. One of his outcomes was to talk in unprepared situations with credibility. We decided it would be challenging and entertaining if he could talk about non-work related subjects with ease, flow and gravitas. Charisma was not what we were aiming for.

My client started talking about his favourite football team. His voice, his gestures, the energy with which he spoke about the subject, his posture, the pace of his speech and the pauses connected to his thoughts in a wonderfully organic and natural way. But the result was so much more than a credible and well-delivered message.

His skills turned on the charisma switch. He began to reveal his fascinating inner world in a way that involved and communicated with me. The lights came on and lit up not only the brilliant financial analyst that he is but a charismatic speaker who is fascinating, entertaining and authentic. He even looked different. It was embodied communication that everyone would respond to and want to listen to. And then it was something more…….

I was taken by surprise by the suddenness of the transformation – and so was he! But practise, focus and a number of skills expertly executed and coming together at the same time had the cumulative effect of charisma.

My client had developed a number of skills that worked simultaneously with his thought, his emotions and identity to create what we could legitimately call 'charisma'. However, it’s time, energy and work - so why bother?

Why Bother?

People with charisma get buy in for their ideas, their pitches and their proposals. They forge professional relationships which help to develop their profile. They get promoted and doors open for them that would remain otherwise closed. And they seem do this without expending undue energy. Ironically, they achieve goals without seeming to be overly attached or focussed on the result. This is because, as I mentioned earlier, they appear so invested in the moment and in the person or people they’re speaking to that their objectives are not obvious. Also, charismatic people influence others to follow them with a combination of the five attributes I’ve mentioned above and their enthusiasm and energy.

No One Style

There are as many versions of charisma as there are people and maybe some of those versions do not possess all of the five attributes I’ve mentioned above. People are endlessly fascinating, quirky and sometimes unfathomably intriguing and that is part of charisma too. It isn’t predictable and wouldn’t be charisma if it were.

Charisma is more than a set of skills, it’s more than your personality, it’s more than how you communicate or how your voice sounds. What is extraordinary about charisma is that it brings the best, indefinable version of you to the table.

Charisma- a definition

The following definition leaves out reference to professional expertise, leadership, extroversion, workplace status, class, education or any other notion that forces charisma into the accepted norms and biases of society. Here we go:

Charisma is the quality of authentically revealing the richness of your inner world at the same time as building a relationship with a person or people to positively share this world; because people feel understood, they are thereby influenced and feel they can reciprocate by communicating the truth of their own world.

Charisma is you in flow

Charisma is you in flow without effort or struggle. Charisma reveals who you are, conveys your unique essence which facilitates you to do whatever it is you want to do. That can be to successfully field challenge at a meeting or have a conversation at a bus stop. Whether you are standing in front of 2000 people or one stranger charisma allows you to express your authentic self without shame, bravado or arrogance. When aligned with the integrity of your values and beliefs it can be a hugely positive, unifying force between yourself and others.

Next Steps

Before working with clients I recommend a 30 minute consultation on zoom to discuss how this type of coaching can work for you. I then draw up a detailed proposal of your learning outcomes, your journey to get to your goals and the time frame involved. I then present this back to you in another zoom call. There's no fee for this process and no obligation to continue.

Put your name and email address here and I’ll get back to you.

Author Posted by: Louise Collins.

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