Mystified as to why everyone but you gets promoted at work? Tired of being a rookie at romance? Like to feel (just once) powerful and dynamic?
Try some charisma. Experts say it's not just the glitterati who glow with it. Everyone has charismatic potential--it's just a matter of enhancing natural abilities and mastering a few basic communications skills.
"Charisma is everyone's birthright," says Doe Lang, author of "The New Secrets of Charisma: How to Discover and Unleash Your Hidden Powers" (1999, Contemporary Books). "Everyone's capable of it."
Katharine Hepburn had it. Cary Grant had it. So do you--you just don't know it.
"Charisma," says Andrew J. DuBrin, author of "Personal Magnetism: Discover Your Own Charisma and Learn to Charm, Inspire, and Influence Others" (AMACOM, 1997), "is a charming, captivating personality that influences people to act in your direction or be drawn to you."
"It's all about building relationships that evoke positive responses in other people," says DuBrin, a psychologist and professor of management at the Rochester Institute of Technology. "Self-confidence and emotional expressiveness cause people to gravitate toward you, enable them to experience you as warm, accepting, positive, inspiring and enthusiastic--about yourself and them."
Charisma is magnetism, energy, vitality, and the ability to connect with anyone, anywhere, says Lang, who runs her own Manhattan communications firm, Charismedia, and has taught singers, dancers and actors to overcome performance fears at Columbia University.
"It's interpersonal influence," but not influence for selfish ends, says Tony Alessandra, author of "Charisma: Seven Keys to Developing the Magnetism That Leads to Success" (Warner Books, 1998).
Alessandra, an expert on building business relationships, cites several cardinal points of charisma: "Think big--having 'vision' is a charisma capstone; think positive; think of others--and inspire and motivate them to larger goals."
Feeling charismatically challenged? Here's how to break through common blocks:
"As children, our bodies feel light and free. But every time we feel threatened in life, we shrink back," says Lang. Our bodies store up every hurt and insult we've ever felt; our personalities get pent-up.
"All of our negative thoughts and hurts as children are turned into physical blocks as adults that interfere with our natural breathing and other functions," says Lang. "Even simply breathing more deeply can free up lots of our charisma."
You can retrain the body to more open and expansive--key to charisma--by simple physical exercises. Lang recommends these to loosen up emotional and mental energies:
1). The "I don't care swing": Swing your torso, neck and head as one unit first to the left, then the right. Let your arms swing freely as your body turns from side to side, until they wrap loosely around you at shoulder level. Shout "I DON'T CARE!" as you do this.
2). Turn the TV volume way up and shout "I HAVE THE RIGHT TO FEEL WHAT I FEEL!" three times a day until it feels natural.
3). Do the "WOW!" to free up enthusiasm: Throw your arms high up in the air and loudly shout "WOW!"
Extra verbal language also is charisma-freeing. Magnetic persons communicate with their whole bodies, says DuBrin: "Punching your fist up into the air to say 'let's do it!' conveys enthusiasm. Thumbs ups says 'you're doing well!' "
Our natural charisma bogs down when we're too self-critical and self-hating; when we don't give ourselves permission to say or feel what we really want.
"Stop putting yourself down," says Lang. Thoughts like "I'll never . . ." and "I can't . . . " inhibit charisma. Boost self-confidence by compiling what Michigan psychologist Gershen Kaufman calls a "pride list"--your positive traits and accomplishments. Ask someone you respect to help you with this, suggests DuBrin. Someone who'll tell you the truth, adds Alessandra. Self-confidence thrives on positive, truthful feedback from others.
Try this masterful way to enhance your charisma in others' eyes, says DuBrin: Respond positively to criticism. Accepting it undefensively creates an automatic bond with the criticizer--who'll see you as risk-taking and refreshingly ego-less.
Humor, self-expressiveness and spontaneous self-assurance--are all vital to charisma, DuBrin explains. We feel grudging admiration for pro wrestler-turned-governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura because he says what he thinks and feels; he seems somehow more alive. We long to "let go" as he does. "When you express yourself, you're being yourself," writes Laura Berman Fortgang in her book, "Take Yourself to the Top: The Secrets of America's #1 Career Coach" (Warner Books, 1998).
"Charisma is very simple. It's about being authentic," says Hal Milton, author of "Going Public: A Practical Guide to Developing Personal Charisma" (Health Communications, 1995), "risking or challenging ourselves to express from our hearts--no matter what."
Magnetic persons are candidly able to express both positive and negative feelings, says DuBrin. They also express themselves vividly--using striking language. They're good with language.
Follow Alessandra's "Platinum Rule" to express your charisma: "Do unto others as they would like to be treated." Adaptability to other people's personality styles--understanding how they operate and relating to their personality types--boosts your magnetism. If someone is a "Director type"--be straightforward with him. For "Relaters"--appeal to their need to be emotionally supported in a situation.
1). Like to be funnier? Notice things others overlook. Comment on the incongruous or the offbeat at work. Scared to try this out on caustic co-workers? Do it first at home on supportive spouses.
2). Like to make others feel special? Listen well, says Alessandra. Use "whole body listening," says DuBrin. Concentrate fully on them, ask questions, mirror their body language. Listening this way is a "commitment and a compliment," write Matthew McKay and Martha Davis in "How to Communicate: The Ultimate Guide for Improving Your Personal and Professional Relationships" (Fine Communications, 1997).
3). Want to be seen as less boring? Don't let a dull voice doom you. Vary your tone; make it more lilting or strong. Leave a message on your answering machine and study how you sound. "There is a profound connection between voice and how personality is perceived," says Lang.
4). Like to be perceived as a "big picture, visionary" kind of person? Be passionate and knowledgeable about something. Discover a "need gap" (at work, in relationships), and try to fill it creatively, uniquely. Solving other people's problems is the ultimate charisma cachet.
Where Do You Fit In?
Doe Lang lists 13 kinds of charisma. They are:
Performance charisma: Madonna, Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn.
Sports: Michael Jordan, Peggy Fleming.
Money or business: Bill Gates, Warren Buffett.
Spiritual: the Dalai Lama, Moses, Christ.
Political and leadership: Winston Churchill, Tony Blair, Ronald Reagan. (Subset of this: resurrectional charisma: Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton.)
Media, fashion and style: Larry King, Donna Karan.
Crossover: Andy Warhol, Lucille Ball.
Cumulative: Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland.
Situational: Prince William (after the death of Diana).
Legendary/heroic: Marco Polo, Cleopatra, Don Juan, Marquis de Sade.
Literary, artistic and intellectual: Homer, Shakespeare, Plato, the Gershwins.
Scientific and technological: Galileo, Descartes, Einstein, Stephen Hawking.
Intrinsic: Our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, even neighbors.