Transcript: Olivia Fox Cabane Debunks Charisma at Stanford Entrepreneurship Corner

So, you’ll find the different kinds of charisma in the book and it will also run you through which ones are most appropriate for who you are and what the situation is.

But, for now, would you please remind me what it is we’ve learned today? What have you learned about charisma?

Charisma can be learned. Thank you.

What else?

Just shout it out, go for it, be bold. It’s hard to fake, absolutely.

What else? It’s all about them, yes. What else?

Bill Clinton was awesome. Bill Clinton was awesome, all right. What else?

Self-confidence is crucial. Self-confidence is crucial, yes. What else?

Presence, power, warmth. Presence, power and warmth, excellent. What else?


Be authentic, yes. What else?

Play chemist to your own brain. Play chemist with your own brain, have fun, enjoy. What else?

Be empathetic. Be empathetic, yes.

Give me a couple of techniques you learned from today, go for it.


Think about your toes. Focus on your toes, yes.

Reframe your brain. Reframe your brain, indeed.

Last couple of ones, yes?

Focus on your body language. Focus on your body language; that would be a great idea.


Look deep into everyone’s eyes. Look deep into everyone’s eyes. Remember the don’t overdo it part.

All right, last one?

It’s easy to learn from people that you feel empathy for. So, charismatic people are great teachers.

Charismatic people are great teachers, all right.


Well, with that, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. It was a pleasure. Thank you.

So, we have about I think four minutes for questions. So, floor is open.

Question-and-answer session


Audience: I know charisma is important. It’s how real world works. But, how do you know that you’re not manipulating others and how do you…?

Olivia Fox Cabane:  How do you know that you’re not manipulating others? You are manipulating others. Charisma is a tool like any other. It’s an asset like any other, like intelligence, like good looks, like connections, like anything else. The cliche I usually give is that a knife in the hands of a surgeon or in the hands of a criminal is the same tool. The only thing that matters is your intent. So that I will leave with you, what your intent is.

Audience: What is something you can do each day to practice?

Olivia Fox Cabane: Ooh, good! What’s something you can do each day for practice? Well, this gets interesting. Get your energy levels up, so play chemist with your own brain, work out in the morning. Whatever it takes to get your energy level up. Two, do improv. Actually, it’s going to get really interesting. So, here are the three things I often recommend to clients. One is improv, and short-form improv is one of the best things you can do for your confidence on stage or interactions, et cetera. Two, martial arts. So, my predilection is Brazilian jujitsu. You want something with real contact, not some sissy sport like taekwondo. I apologize to anyone who does taekwondo in the audience. Brazilian jujitsu — more seriously, Brazilian jujitsu, judo, something that will teach you to own the space around you. An alternative is yoga, if you want to go that route.


The third — I have nothing against yoga; I’m a big fan of yoga.

Audience: What was the previous?

Olivia Fox Cabane: Brazilian jujitsu, BJJ. Was that it? Getting your energy up, the second was martial arts. Oh, improv? Improvisational theater, my apologies. Improvisational theater. And, the third would be tango. All forms of dance are excellent ways of getting to own the stage and learning the dynamics. Tango is particularly good because it teaches you the interaction, the power play. Yeah.

Audience: So, what happens when two highly charismatic people meet each other?


Olivia Fox Cabane: What happens when two highly charismatic people meet other? It gets really interesting. What you see is just the energy levels go through the roof. Really, the energy goes on quite a high. And I didn’t have time to cover that today but there is a whole dark side to charisma. And, I am not talking about the bad things you can do with charisma; that’s obvious. I’m talking about the cost of being charismatic to the charismatic person.

Charisma can actually have some highly negative side effects. When you get two highly charismatic people speaking with another, you just see the scintillating stuff. It looks pretty. It looks great. There is high energy and everyone gets drunk on that high. Yes?

Audience: How do you deal with someone who appears to be untrustworthy?

Olivia Fox Cabane: How do you deal with someone who appears to be untrustworthy? I am not sure that I would have a charisma-specific response in this situation. So, I guess my best answer would be I don’t know. Good luck to you on that one. Yes?

Audience: You said you should be authentic, but at the same time, you say we can learn charisma…

Olivia Fox Cabane: Yes.

Audience: All this in my opinion, it’s a little bit contradicting.

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