“The Charisma Myth” Quotes

I recently read, “The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism” by Olivia Fox Cabane. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. If you like them, buy the whole book here.

“Charisma is the result of specific nonverbal behaviors, not an inherent or magical personal quality.” (4)

“When we first meet someone, we instinctively assess whether that person is a potential friend or foe and whether they have the power to enact those intentions. Power and intentions are what we’re aiming to assess. ‘Could you move mountains for me? And would you care to do so?’” (5)

“When you meet a charismatic person, you get the impression that they have a lot of power and they like you a lot… A final dimension underlies both of these qualities: presence.” (5)

“The three crucial aspects of charisma: presence, power and warmth.” (6)

“Three quick tips to gain an instant charisma boost in conversation:

  • 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.” (10)

“People will tend to accept whatever you project.” (19)

“Someone who is powerful but not warm can be impressive, but isn’t necessarily perceived as charismatic and can come across as arrogant, cold, or standoffish. Someone who possesses warmth without power can be likable, but isn’t necessarily perceived as charismatic and can come across as overeager, subservient, or desperate to please.” (20)

“We can’t micromanage charismatic body language.” (21)

“Our body language expresses our mental state whether we like it or not. Our facial expressions, voice, posture, and all the other components of body language reflect our mental and emotional condition every second. Because we don’t control this flow consciously, whatever is in our head will show up in our body language.” (21)

“To be effective, charismatic behaviors must originate in your mind.” (22)

“Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu reportedly said: “To know others is knowledge. To know oneself is wisdom.” (24)

“Because your brain cannot distinguish imagination from reality, imaginary situations cause your brain to send your body the same commands as it would for a real situation.” (24)

“Whatever your mind believes, your body will manifest. Just by getting into a charismatic mental state, your body will manifest a charismatic body language.” (25)

“Charisma has three essential components: presence, power and warmth.” (26)

“Any physical discomfort that affects your visible, external state – your body language – even slightly may affect how charismatic you are perceived to be.” (29)

“Signs of fatigue can easily show up in people’s body language as lack of enthusiasm.” (30)

“Check in with your face from time to time; notice if it is tense.” (31)

“Responsibility transfer:

1. Sit comfortably or lie down, relax, and close your eyes.

2. Take two or three deep breaths. As you inhale, imagine drawing clean air toward the top of your head. As you exhale, let that air whoosh through you, washing away all worries and concerns.

3. Pick an entity-God, Fate, the Universe, whatever may best suit your beliefs-that you could imagine as benevolent.

4. Imagine lifting the weight of everything you’re concerned about this meeting, this interaction, this day-off your shoulders and placing it on the shoulders of whichever entity you’ve chosen. They’re in charge now.

5. Visually lift everything off your shoulders and feel the difference as you are now no longer responsible for the outcome of any of these things. Everything is taken care of.

You can sit back, relax, and enjoy whatever good you can find along the way.

The next time you feel yourself considering alternative outcomes to a situation, pay close attention. If your brain is going around in circles, obsessing about possible outcomes, try a responsibility transfer to alleviate some of the anxiety. Consider that there might be an all-powerful entity-the Universe, God, Fate-and entrust it with all the worries on your mind.” (34-35)

“Try a responsibility transfer to alleviate some of the anxiety.” (35)

“Few things impact people’s performance more than how they feel about themselves.” (38)

“To destigmatize, remind yourself that this internal discomfort, whatever it might be, is a normal part of the human experience and a by=product of one of our brain’s survival mechanisms.” (44)

“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.” (50)

“Neutralizing Negativity

Use the techniques below anytime you’d like to lessen the effects of persistent negative thoughts. As you try each technique, pay attention to which ones work best for you and keep practicing them until they become instinctive. You may also discover some of your own that work just as well.

• 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.

• See your thoughts as graffiti on a wall or as little electrical impulses flickering around your brain.

• 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 seeing yourself from afar. Zoom out so far, you can see planet Earth hanging in space. Then zoom in to see your continent, then your country, your city, and finally the room you’re in. See your little self, electrical impulses whizzing across your brain. One little being having a particular experience at this particular moment.” (50)

“We’re learning here to neutralize unhelpful thoughts. We want to avoid falling into the trap of arguing with them or trying to suppress them. This would only make matters worse.” (51)

“Because trying to suppress a self-critical thought only makes it more central to your thinking, it’s a far better strategy to simply aim to neutralize it.” (51)

“When people are induced into a negative emotional state and then asked to suppress negative emotions, their internal negative experience often remains unchanged and they sustain elevated stress responses in their brain and cardiovascular system.” (52)

“But what if you happened to learn that this apparently reckless driver was actually a distraught mother whose baby was choking in the backseat, and she was desperately trying to pull over into the breakdown lane while reaching back to save her baby’s life? Would that immediately reduce your anger?” (52)

“Deciding to change your belief about what happened (technically called cognitive reappraisal) effectively decreases the brain’s stress levels.” (53)

“Researchers concluded that deciding to change beliefs was a far more effective and healthier solution than attempting to repress or ignore emotions.” (53)

“In most situations, we don’t know for certain what motivates a person’s actions, so we might as well choose the explanation that is most helpful to us and create a version of events that gets us into the specific mental state we need for charisma.” (53)

“I sat down at the desk, pulled out pen and paper and asked myself: What if this unfortunate, unpleasant experience is absolutely perfect just as it is – the insomnia, the nausea, the fact that this is happening the very night before a high-profile assignment? In what way can this turn out to be absolutely perfect for me?” (54)

“I continued to write all the possible upsides of this unfortunate experience. I made this new reality as detailed and sensory-rich as possible: describing what I said, what the audience looked like, when and how they nodded and laughed throughout my speech.” (54)

“Write in the present tense: “The speech is going well…” Or, even better, in the past tense: “The speech was a complete triumph…” (56)

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” (57)

“Putting It into Practice: Getting Satisfaction

• 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.” (57)

“The answer, surprisingly, is to delve into those very sensations of discomfort. That’s right. Though it sounds counterintuitive, rather than trying to suppress, ignore, or power through them, your goal is to give your full attention to the very sensations you’d instinctively want to push away.” (61)

“The next time you do this exercise, aim to create images that are even more detailed. Guided imagery must be precise, vivid, and detailed to be effective.” (70)

“When clients ask me if they should use visualization before an important speech, I answer, “Only if you want it to go really well!”” (72)

After fifteen years of speaking professionally, I find that doing even thirty seconds of visualization makes a substantial difference to my performance. It greatly affects how charismatic I am on stage. In fact, every time I don’t run through a visualization just before stepping on stage, I regret it. Even when I know the speech so well I could say it backward, it’s worth using visualization to ensure that I get into the right charismatic mental state.” (72)

“Before key meetings, she’ll imagine “the smiles on their faces because they liked me and they are confident about the value I’m bringing them. I’ll imagine as much detail as I can, even seeing the wrinkles around their eyes as they’re smiling.” She visualizes the whole interaction, all the way through to the firm handshakes that close the meeting, sealing the deal.” (73)

“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. So the next time you’re feeling anxious, you might want to imagine being wrapped up in a great big hug from someone you care about.” (73)

“To boost your charisma, choose figures who represent complete self-confidence, or warmth and caring, or calm and serenity. Or you might even find some figures who embody all the elements at once. Visualize yourself going to these figures for a “pep talk” anytime you feel you need one. Thanks to the brain’s wonderful placebo response, this will produce effects even if it doesn’t feel real.” (74)

“One way to invoke a sense of gratitude is to focus on little things that are physically present.” (76)

“Another good gratitude-enhancing tool is to view your life through a third-person lens, writing a narrative about yourself cast in a positive light.” (76)

“​​When our only aim is to broadcast goodwill, it takes the pressure off.” (80) 

“Goodwill is the simple state of wishing others well.” (80)

“One simple but effective way to start is to try to find three things you like about the person you want to feel goodwill toward… even if these are as small as “their shoes are shined” or “they were on time.”” (80) 

“When you start searching for positive elements, your mental state changes accordingly and then sweeps through your body language.” (80)

“In any interaction, imagine the person you’re speaking to, and all those around you, as having invisible angel wings.” (81)

“Paul Gilbert describes the process of accessing compassion as follows: first comes empathy, the ability to understand what someone is feeling, to detect distress; second, sympathy, being emotionally moved by dis-tress; and third, compassion, which arises with the desire to care for the well-being of the distressed person.” (82)

“You can think your way into compassion even if you don’t naturally feel it.” (82)

“Putting It into Practice: Compassion

Goodwill and compassion give you warmth to balance your power, and can save you from appearing overconfident or, worse, arrogant.

They can also be a stealth tool, a silver bullet that turns around difficult conversations.

Take the three steps below to practice compassion for someone you know:

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.” (83)

“Helen had plenty of self-confidence. So what was she lacking? Warmth. People were impressed by how much she knew, but they didn’t feel cared for. Helen couldn’t emanate warmth because she had a hard time feeling it-whether for others or for herself.“ (84)

“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. I’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 are going through a difficult experience.” (84)

“Self-compassion is feeling that what happened to you is unfortunate, whereas self-pity is feeling that what happened to you is unfair.” (85)

“defines 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 were going through is commonly experienced by all human beings, and remembering that everyone goes through difficult times.” (86)

“Displaying confident body language will actually make you feel more confident; these feelings will in turn affect your body language.” (91)

“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.” (92)

“I decided that I was a movie star incognito.” (93)

“Just as professional athletes and performers do, plan a gradual warm-up to reach your peak charismatic performance. Before important events, avoid experiences that would impair your mental state and plan warmth- and confidence-boosting activities instead.” (97)

“As always, body language trumps all other signs of charisma. Even if all the other signals are present, a body language of insecurity will undermine any possibility of authority charisma.” (105)

“To project power and confidence in your body language, you’ll need to learn how to “take up space” with your posture, reduce nonverbal reassurances (such as excessive nodding), and avoid fidgeting.” (106)

“Clothing, essentially, is modern-day tribal wear.” (118)

“An easy way to start interactions in a way that both communicates warmth and sends the conversation down the right path is to offer a compliment about something the person is wearing.” (123) 

“Continue with an open-ended question, such as “What’s the story behind it?”” (123)

“If they start asking about you and you want to refocus the conversation on them, use the bounce back technique. Answer the question with a fact, add a personal note, and redirect the question to them, as follows:

Other Person: “So where are you moving to?”” (124)

“Remember, it’s all about keeping the spotlight on them for as long as possible.” (124)

“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.” (124)

“We are about to cover three keys to communicating presence: attentive listening, refraining from interrupting, and deliberate pausing.” (129)

“One simple but extraordinarily effective habit that will make people feel truly listened to and understood: they pause before they answer.” (130)

“When someone has spoken, see if you can let your facial expression react first, showing that you’re absorbing what they’ve just said and giving their brilliant statement the consideration it deserves. Only then, after about two seconds, do you answer.” (131)

“First, think about how you would behave if you were indeed speaking to the most important person in the room.” (135)

“imagine that the person you’re speaking with is the main star in a movie you’re watching right now.” (135)

“I tell all my clients: Don’t try to impress people. Let them impress you, and they will love you for it.” (136)

“Studies have consistently shown that audience ratings of a lecture are more strongly influenced by delivery style than by content.” (139)

“Increasing voice fluctuation means making your voice vary in any of the following ways: pitch (high or low), volume (loud or quiet), tone (resonant or hollow), tempo (fast or slow), or rhythm (fluid or staccato).” (140)

“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.” (141)

“Tempo: A slow, measured tempo with frequent pauses conveys confidence.” (141)

“Putting It into Practice: Vocal Power

The guidelines below will help you broadcast power through your voice.

1. Speak slowly. Visualize the contrast between a nervous, squeaky teenager speaking at high speed and the slow, emphatic tone of a judge delivering a verdict.

2. Pause. People who broadcast confidence often pause while speaking. They will pause for a second or two between sentences or even in the middle of a sentence. This conveys the feeling that they’re so confident in their power, they trust that people won’t interrupt.

3. Drop intonation. You know how a voice rises at the end of a question? Just reread the last sentence and hear your voice go up at the end. Now imagine an assertion: a judge saying

“This case is closed.” Feel how the intonation of the word closed drops. Lowering the intonation of your voice at the end of a sentence broadcasts power. When you want to sound superconfident, you can even lower your intonation midsentence.

4. Check your breathing. Make sure you’re breathing deeply into your belly and inhale and exhale through your nose rather than your mouth. Breathing through your mouth can make you sound breathless and anxious.” (141)

“There’s only one thing you need to do in order to project more warmth in your voice: smile. Smiling affects how we speak to such an extent that listeners in one study could identify sixteen different kinds of ~ smiles based on sound alone.’ This is why it’s worth smiling even when on the phone.” (142)

“Often, just thinking about smiling is enough to give your voice more warmth.” (142)

“Imagine that you’re a preacher exhorting your congregation.” (142)

“​​If your body language is anticharismatic, it doesn’t matter how great your message is.” (144)

“As a leader, the emotions conveyed by your body language, even during brief, casual encounters, can have a ripple effect through your team or even your entire company.” (145)

“The first is excessive or rapid nodding. Nodding once for emphasis or to express agreement is fine and can be an effective communication method, but nodding three or four times in rapid succession is not.” (161)

“The second hindrance is excessive verbal reassurance: making a sound, such as “uh-huh,” or a half-sentence, such as “Oh, I agree.” Done once, and consciously, this is fine; multiple times per sentence is not.” (161)

“The third issue is restlessness or fidgeting (tapping your pencil or foot, or rearranging items on the table). Fidgeting decreases presence, thus charisma. Even when you have warmth, confidence, and are mentally present, if you are physically restless, you can’t be charismatic.” (161)

“Aim to bring your chin down a few degrees.” (162)

“Asking for someone’s opinion is a better strategy than asking for their advice, because giving advice feels like more effort, as they have to tailor a recommendation to your situation, whereas with an opinion, they can just spout whatever is on their mind.” (168)

“Imagine that just a few hours ago they saw a beloved parent die.” (171)

“Here’s one specific— and surprisingly effective-recommendation for phone charisma, courtesy of author Leil Lowndes: 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. This simple technique is an easy and effective way to make people feel special.” (185)

“Write out the e-mail as you normally would, but before you send it, simply cut and paste so that whatever pertains to the other person appears first and most prominently.” (185)

“I often recommend that they go through their marketing materials (you can do the same with your e-mails) using two different-colored highlighters, one for things relating to them and the other for sentences that speak to their potential clients. If the second color doesn’t predominate, they have a problem.”” (185)

“It’s hard to have a question-and-answer period as compelling and energetic as your main speech. Almost inevitably, the Q&A period lowers the energy.” (190)

“Personally, I avoid formal Q&A entirely. Instead, my introducer warns the audience that there will be no Q&A session at the end, so their one and only chance to ask questions is during the speech.” (190)

“• Red conveys energy, passion. Wear red to wake up an audience.

• Black shows you’re serious and that you won’t take no for an answer.

• White exudes honesty and innocence, which is why defendants often choose it in the courtroom.

• Blue emits trust. The darker the shade, the deeper the level of trust it elicits.

• Gray is a good neutral, the quintessential color of business.

• Orange and yellow are not recommended. Because they are the first to attract the human eye, they are also the first to tire it.” (191)

“Express high expectations. Sometimes, simply assigning to people the labels you want them to live up to is enough” (202)

“Express this expectation as if you have full confidence that they can live up to it.” (203)

“Giving people a sense of ownership for your success is a great way to prevent resentment and engender good feelings, such as pride and loyalty, instead.” (208)

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