The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism
“Ms. Cabane’s style reflects the packaging of a collection of insights and techniques from multiple disciplines rather than the treatise of a researcher who has created and pioneered the discipline herself. Charisma Myth is an easy read, effectively integrating stories and research, strategies and applications, techniques and practices.”
At a time in which celebrity increasingly dominates society and the economy, commanding ever disproportionately greater rewards, the ambitious aspire to model their lives on lives of the celebrities.
But if the recognition and media coverage that celebrity commands are inaccessible, then the ambitious aim instead for the presence, impact, and personal magnetism that celebrities often employ in personal interactions.
Olivia Fox Cabane makes the case in The Charisma Myth, as reflected in the book’s subtitle, How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism, that charisma is accessible—if you learn how to apply the techniques that she teaches.
Through mastering nonverbal behaviors—identified by her reverse engineering the “science of charisma by learning the behavioral and cognitive science behind it, and striving to extract the most practical tools and techniques”—readers can enjoy the benefits of the three core elements of charismatic behavior: presence, power, and warmth.
The author illustrates the power of her version of charisma through relating the story of a woman who, after encountering both William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli, two rivals for the position of Prime Minister of Great Britain, in the summer of 1886, observed, “After dining with Mr. Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest person in England, but after dining with Mr. Disraeli, I thought I was the cleverest person in England.”
Ms. Cabane’s mission is to have her readers model the extraordinary skills of Mr. Disraeli.
The author presents four distinct charisma styles, each of which are based on a specific foundation of behavior:
While most would think of charisma as an attribute, in Olivia Cabane’s hands, charisma is a not only a descriptive adjective, but a proactive verb. Ms. Cabane proclaims,
“Charisma gets people to like you, trust you, and want to be led by you. It can determine whether you are seen as a follower or a leader, whether your ideas get adopted, and how effectively your projects are implemented. . . . It makes people want to do what you want them to do.”
Ms. Cabane employs a “big tent” view of charisma, extending well beyond the dictionary definition of inspiring devotion and enthusiasm. Central to Ms. Cabane’s charisma construct is congruency between psychology and physiology, emphasizing the matching of nonverbal messages and words.
Indeed, charisma is an admixture of (1) interpersonal skills, (2) the applied positive mental attitude of W. Clement Stone, (3) emotional self-management (4) the persuasion psychology of Dale Carnegie, (5) Zen Buddhism mindfulness, and (6) the behavioral tools of neurolinguistic programming.
Self-management is crucial for achieving the desired internal state. To this end, the author advises, “preparing for a key moment, I’m careful to choose songs that correspond with the mood I am trying to achieve.” She organizes her musical “playlist for self-confidence, warmth, empathy and patience . . . these playlists are also organized as ‘free-speech,’ morning wake-up and even ‘pre-family gatherings’ (yes, I’m serious).”
She advocates “speaking and listening with charisma.” Thus, “effective listening means behaving in a way that makes whomever you are speaking with feel truly understood. 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! . . . Master listeners know one simple but extraordinarily effective habit that will make people feel truly listened to and understood: They pause before they answer.”
Conveniently, the author concludes each chapter with four to nine, “key takeaways,” summarizing the presentation.
Additionally, at the conclusion of the book she provides summaries of each of the 13 chapters. As well, some 25 key charisma exercises are conveniently collected and summarized in the appendix.
The scope, breadth, and depth of Ms. Cabane’s view of charisma, as well as techniques to enhance and apply it, are reflected by titles of various exercises, including:
• Responsibility Transfer,
• Stigmatizing Discomfort,
• Neutralizing Negativity,
• Rewriting Reality,
• Getting Satisfaction,
• Delving into Sensations,
• Stretching Your Comfort Zone,
• Meta (a forgiveness/acceptance process),
• Using Your Body to Change Your Mind,
• The Perfect Handshake (eight steps to perform a gold-store handshake),
• Great Listening,
• Voice Fluctuation,
• Putting It Into Practice,
• Vocal Power,
• Charismatic Seating Choices,
• 90-degree angle preferred over directly across),
• Being the Big Gorilla,
• Putting it Into Practice: Mid Course Corrections,
• Showing Vulnerability.
As the author concludes, “Discerning who wants to help us and has the power to do so has been critical to our survival for our entire human history.” While charisma is increased by projecting power and also by projecting warmth, combining the two dramatically increases charisma. She observes, “We instinctively look for clues for which to evaluate warmth and power, and then we adjust our assumptions accordingly.
“Expensive clothing leads us to assume wealth, friendly body language leads us to assume good intentions. A confident posture leads us to assume the person has something to be confident about. In essence, people tend to accept whatever you project.”
In application, good will is an important means for “accessing warmth, and, ultimately, charisma . . . good will is a simple state of wishing others well.”
In interacting with people she counsels, “Because we’re constantly creating associations in people’s minds, it’s crucial with business and social situations to be aware of how you’re making people feel. To be charismatic, you need to create strong positive associations and avoid creating negative ones.” As she points out, “We associate feelings with sights, sounds, tastiest, smells, places, and, of course, people, which is why others will associate with you with the way you make them feel.”
She wisely emphases actually doing the exercises for “just reading this book won’t yield its full benefits. You would be “shortchanging yourself if you avoid any of the exercises . . . uncomfortable as they may feel at times. To be successful, you have to be willing to put in the effort of applying what you read . . . there is no substitute for doing the exercise . . . commit and do your homework.”
Ms. Cabane’s style reflects the packaging of a collection of insights and techniques from multiple disciplines, rather than the treatise of a researcher who has created and pioneered the discipline herself.
Charisma Myth is an easy read, effectively integrating stories and research, strategies and applications, techniques and practices.