Olivia Fox Cabane, the author of The Charisma Myth, debunks charisma in this talk titled “Build Your Personal Charisma” at Stanford Entrepreneurship Corner. Here is the full transcript.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Olivia Fox Cabane on Build Your Personal Charisma at Stanford
Thank you so much. Thank you so much. And I’m honored and flattered to see that it’s not just standing room only, but three rows deep. So the pressure is on.
It was a sunny day in New York City 1955. The streets flowed with traffic, the sidewalks bustled with busy people. And Marilyn Monroe wanted to prove a point. With a photographer in tow, she walked down into Grand Central Station. Though it was the middle of the week and the platform was packed with people, not a single person noticed her, while she stood waiting for the train. As the photographer’s camera clicked, she boarded the train and rode along quietly in a corner of the car. Nobody recognized her.
What Marilyn wanted to show was that just by deciding to, she could be either glamorous Ms. Monroe or plain Norma Jeane Baker. On the subway, she was Norma Jeane. But when she resurfaced onto the busy New York sidewalks, she decided to turn into Marilyn. So, she looked around and she teasingly asked the photographer: “So, do you want to see her, the Marilyn?” And then he said, there were no grand gestures — she just “fluffed up her hair, and struck a pose.” And yet, with this simple shift, she suddenly became magnetic. An aura of magic seemed to ripple out from her, and everything stopped.
Time stood still, as did the people around her, who starred in amazement as they suddenly recognized the star standing in their midst. In an instant Marilyn was engulfed by fans, and “it took several scary moments” to help her escape the growing crowd.
Charisma has always been an intriguing and controversial topic. And when I tell people that as part of my leadership work, I “teach charisma,” they often exclaim, “But I thought it was something that you’re either born with or not.” Some see it as an unfair advantage, others are eager to learn, but everyone is fascinated. And they are right to be so.
Charisma gets people to like you, trust you, and want to be led by you. It can determine whether you’re seen as a follower or a leader, whether or not your ideas get adopted, and how effectively your projects are implemented. Like it or not, charisma can make the world go round, because it makes people want to do what you want them to do.
Now whenever I’m asked how I got into this field, I have to admit, it was personal desperation. Because by nature, I am a socially inept awkward introvert and by my late teens, I realized that I really only had two choices, either exile myself to a desert island or somehow try to make this whole human thing work. So, I chose the latter for now, but I’m still keeping the desert island option open.
In studying charisma, it turns out that of all the myths surrounding the subject, the most commonly held was of charisma as an innate, magical personal quality. Instead, as extensive research has shown, charisma is the result of specific behaviors. This is the reason — one of the reasons — why charisma levels fluctuate and as Marilyn demonstrated it can be there one moment and gone the next.
In fact, in controlled laboratory experiments, researchers were able to raise or lower people’s level of charisma, as if they were turning a dial, just by instructing them to display specific charismatic behaviors. Charisma has been turned into an applied science.
Now one of the reasons why charisma is mistakenly held to be innate is that, like many other social skills, charismatic behaviors are usually learned early in life, when people don’t even consciously realize they are learning them. They’re just trying new behaviors, seeing the results, and refining them. Eventually, the behaviors become instinctive.
Some people, however, make a conscious decision that they are going to learn this whole charisma thing. Steve Jobs is a great example. And if you go to my blog, you’ll see a piece called demystifying the Steve Jobs magic, showing with videos how he consciously, gradually acquired, step by step, each of the charismatic behaviors we’re covering tonight. The blog is called askolivia.com.
Now, of course, in learning charisma, not everyone is going to become Steve Jobs, nor Bill Clinton for that matter. But everyone can learn enough charisma to see a measurable difference in their daily lives.
Behaviors That Create Charisma
So with that said, what are the behaviors that create charisma? Well, they fall into three categories: behaviors of presence, behaviors of power, and behaviors of warmth. All three components of presence, power and warmth are critical to achieve charisma. The only thing that changes is what kind of charisma you will get depending on which of these components is strongest.
So, let’s look at each of these components in turn.
Presence: when people describe their experience of seeing charisma in action, whether they met Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, or the Dalai Lama, they often mention what an extraordinary presence the person had. And presence is the single most requested aspect of charisma when I’m coaching executives. They want to increase their boardroom presence or their executive presence. And they’re right to focus on it, because presence turns out to be the real core of charisma, the foundation upon which all else is built.
When you’re with a charismatic master, take Bill Clinton, for example, he gives you the feeling that he’s completely here with you, in the moment. Present. And I’ve met hardened Republicans, who’ve told me Bill Clinton, I hated him before I met him, I hated him after I met him, but while I met him, ma’am, I loved the man.
Have you ever felt in the middle of a conversation as if only half your mind were present, while the other half was busy thinking about something else? Raise your hands if that’s ever happened to you. All right then.
Do you think the other person noticed? Yes. When this happens, there is a good chance that your eyes will glaze over or that your facial reactions will be a split second delayed. Here is the thing: because people can read facial expressions in as little as 17 milliseconds, the person you’re speaking to will likely notice the smallest delays in your reactions. And on a gut level, they’ll get the feeling that something is not quite right, something doesn’t quite fit. This delay, technically called an incongruence, can even give them the feeling that you’re being inauthentic. Nothing ruins trust or charisma faster than appearing inauthentic.
We think we can fake presence. We think we can fake listening. We think that as long as we seem attentive, it’s OK to let our minds turn on other things, but we’re wrong. When you’re not fully present in an interaction, the person you’re speaking to will likely notice it. I’m sure you’ve had this experience of speaking with someone who wasn’t fully listening. You noticed.
So, how do you get presence? Well, my favorite technique to stay present in a conversation is kind of quirky, but remarkably effective. So, right now, if you would, focus on the physical sensations in your toes — your toes, big toes, little toes, all the toes in between however many of them you have, focus on the physical sensation in your toes. What this does is that it forces your brain to sweep your body from head to, of course toe, and gets you very physically present in the moment. So, you do that for only a split second, then you get back to the conversation. But it’s very effective. Just by focusing on your toes you can up your level of charisma immediately. I realize that you probably weren’t expecting your toes to be crucial to charisma, they are. That’s one technique.
Technique number two, is to really focus on the colors in the eyes of the person you’re speaking with. If you pay close attention, you will see that their eyes contain a dazzling array of colors that can keep you quite captivated. And better yet, give you the kind of deep soul searching eye contact that is extremely powerful. The kind that Bill Clinton is famous for. So, obviously don’t over-do it, a little goes a long way.
Realize that giving people your full presence is one of the most effective ways to make them feel that they’re the center of the universe. And guess what? Charisma is not just how you make people feel about you, it’s also how you make them feel about themselves.
In the heated London election of 1886, William Gladstone was running against Benjamin Disraeli for the post of Prime Minister to the British Empire. Now this was the Victorian era. So whoever won was going to rule half the world. And in the very last week before the election, both men happened to take the same young lady out to dinner on consecutive evenings.
Naturally the press asked her, what impressions the rivals had made upon her? She said, “After dining with Mr. Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest men in England. After dining with Mr. Disraeli, I thought I was the cleverest women in England”. Guess who won the election?
It was the man who made others feel intelligent and fascinating — it was Benjamin Disraeli. I often tell my clients: Don’t try to impress them. Let them impress you and they will love you for it. So, that is what charismatic presence can achieve.
Presence, once again, is the core component of charisma, the foundation upon which all else is built. Together with presence, power, and warmth combine to create charismatic magnetism.
So, let’s look at Power. Power is not commanding an army. It’s not the actual power you wield. It’s our perception of your ability to affect the world around you. Whether this be through raw physical power, or large amounts of money, influence, expertise, intelligence, high social status and so forth. We look for clues of power in the person’s appearance, in others’ reaction to that person, but most of all in the person’s demeanor in their body language.
Now, I’m sure you’ve all heard of the importance of body language. But listen to this. The MIT Media Lab was able to predict the outcome of negotiations, sales calls, and business plan pitches with 87% accuracy without listening to a single word of content, only by analyzing the voice fluctuation and the facial expression of the person pitching.
So what’s a powerful body language like? Well, imagine an alpha gorilla whose territory has just been breached by a rival. Our alpha wants to intimidate the intruder off his territory. What does he do? He beats his chest. Why? Why does he beat his chest? To scare the other people. What’s he signaling, what does beating his chest make him? Strong, feel strong. Feel strong, okay, but look technically from here to here, what does it make him? It makes him bigger — it turns out — Stanford researchers found, alpha humans do exactly the same thing. They sit on one chair, they drape their arm on a second, they put their feet upon a third or even on the desk. These gestures are always of claiming space.
If you picture a nervous, insecure person, they’re probably claiming a smaller space than if you picture Colin Powell. So right now, if you please, put everything down, stand up and give me the body language of a military general. Imagine that you’re a five-star general and you’re reviewing troops of little G.I. Joe’s parading in front of your feet. How would you stand? Show me. All right, wide stance, excellent. That could make you more stable.
What else would you do? Shoulders back. Yeah, how do you get your shoulders back? You’re going to be there for a couple of hours, better get comfortable. How do you stand? Relaxed, okay. What do you do with your hands? Behind our back.
Why do you put your hands behind your back? It makes your elbows come out, it makes you look bigger, puts your chest — excellent, all right.
Now, feel how you’re feeling right now. When people adopt these kind of expansive poses, it turns out that they experience a measurable physiological shift. In one experiment, anxiety hormones fell by 19% while assertiveness and energy boosting hormones rose up by 25%. So when you assume a physically confident powerful posture, you actually feel more powerful. As you feel more powerful, your body language adapts accordingly. This in turn gives you yet another biochemical boost and the cycle builds upon itself. Thank you very much.
All you have to do is get the cycle going. Just like an athlete preparing to perform, you’re learning how to play chemist with your own brain. And in a way, a lot of the best charisma tools are learning how to play chemist with your own brain. To get yourself into exactly the kind of mental state you need for peak performance. And this is, of course, a great transition to the mental side of power.
So on the mental side, what hinders our power? The single biggest obstacle isn’t lack of bank account funds, it’s not lack of influence, and it’s not lack of status symbols. The single biggest obstacle is lack of self-confidence.
In one of the manifestations of low self-confidence called the imposter syndrome, people feel that they don’t really know what they’re doing. And it’s just a matter of time before they’re found out and exposed as a fraud. This syndrome is estimated to hit 70% to 80% of the population. And it hits the highest levels of business and education. Every time I speak about this at Harvard, at Yale, at Stanford and at MIT, the room goes so silent you could hear a pin drop. And then the students breathe a sigh of relief at hearing that this has a name and they’re not the only ones to have felt it.
I’ve heard that every time the incoming class of Stanford Business School is asked how many of you in here feel that you are the one mistake the admissions committee made? Two-thirds of the students immediately raise their hands.
Dismantling the imposter syndrome is a three-step process. The first step is destigmatizing, which means lifting the stigma of shame off the experience. Destigmatizing is crucial because shame is a real performance killer. Of all the emotions the human being can feel, shame is one of the worst, which is why destigmatizing is so important and if you are leaders, you have a critical responsibility. Because as leaders, it’s you that people turn to, to understand how they should feel about their experience. As leaders, you are by definition the alphas of your pack. People will turn to you to know how they should react to events and situations. So you can help them destigmatize by understanding this feeling as normal, natural, and entirely common.
Now, if de-stigmatizing was step one, detaching is step two. The key to detaching is understanding that our thoughts are not necessarily accurate at all. Just because a thought is in our head does not mean it has any validity whatsoever.
In one well-known study, Harvard researchers asked students to watch a video in which two teams played basketball, and count the number of passes made by one of the teams. Afterwards, the researchers asked the students: “Did you notice anything unusual about the video?” Some of you know where this is going. And the students said, “No, but we can tell you the number of times they pass the ball”. What over half the students had missed is that midway through the game, a woman dressed in a gorilla suit walked on to the court, waved her arms at the camera and walked off court again.
Now, if you think you’d do better, let’s try something out together right now. Look around the room and pick up really closely everything that is blue. Really closely, everything that’s blue. You’re going to get about 30 seconds, be really careful. All right.
Close your eyes. Keeping your eyes closed, could you please tell me right now everything that’s red? Thank you.
How did this happen? Because we have a limited capacity for conscious attention, which constrains how much we can be aware of at any given moment. Of the millions of visual inputs our eyes take in every moment, we only perceive very few.
The conscious awareness of absolutely everything happening around us would be simply overwhelming. So to deal with this, our brain filters for relevant information. Either what we specifically ask to pay attention to, red or blue, or what it considers important for our survival. In doing so, our mind does not provide us with a true representation of reality. Because it has to filter, it gives us an incomplete view presenting only some elements and withholding all others.
Now, most of the time, the elements you’re missing don’t matter. And the picture you get is fairly useful. But sometimes, our mind gives us a highly distorted view of reality. That’s when you get distorted thinking. And just like an optical illusion tricks our eyes into seeing things that aren’t real, distorted thinking tricks our mind into being certain that an inaccurate thought is true. So that’s detaching.
Some cognitive scientists recommend seeing these negative thoughts just as we would graffiti on a wall. When you’re walking down a street and you see a graffiti, you might decide that it’s an ugly sight, but you don’t take that to mean that you are an ugly person. When you’re meandering around the maze of your mind, if you encounter an ugly thought, try to see it as just graffiti on a wall.
Detaching was step two of the dismantling process, after destigmatizing. Step three is learning how to rewrite reality. And since it’s actually the key tool for warmth, we’re going to see it under the warmth section.
Warmth, simply put, is how much someone gives us the impression that they like us. Warmth tells us whether someone would be inclined to use whatever power they have in our favor. We perceive warmth almost entirely through body language and behavior. It’s evaluated even more directly than power.
The important thing to know about warmth is that you cannot fake it. Because warmth is so closely tied to body language, and there is far too much body language for us to control consciously.
Were you aware of your eyelids fluttering in front of your eyes right now? How about the weight of your tongue in your mouth? How about the position of your feet? Have you forgotten your eyelids again? We cannot control our body language consciously because every moment there are thousands of units of information pouring out, which is why great actors were exhausted after great performances as they were trying so hard to bring this entire flow into congruence. And even with years of training, it’s often impossible to get it absolutely perfect.
Because if what you’re feeling inside is different from what you’re trying to portray, sooner or later what’s called a micro-expression is going to flash and people will catch that. It will give them on a gut level the feeling of an incongruence, something that doesn’t quite fit, maybe something inauthentic.
So what did Hollywood do? What new form of acting did they come up with? Method acting. What’s method acting? Feeling what you’re portraying. You actually become the character. You want to truly feel what you want to portray. Essentially you don’t try to control the output, the body language. You go straight to the input, the mind.
Close your eyes for a second. Imagine a lemon. Cut the lemon in half. Suck on the lemon juice. Now imagine dragging your fingernails across the chalkboard. Open your eyes. There was no lemon. There was no chalkboard. And yet for many of you, it produced very real physical reactions in response to a completely imaginary event.
Why did this happen? Because our brain cannot tell the difference between imagination and reality. How many of you have already been scared watching a scary movie? Raise your hand. Consciously you knew that it was just a movie, right? You knew that those were just well paid actors up there, who were delighted to look like they’re getting murdered in exchange for a couple of million dollars. But subconsciously your brain sees blood and guts on the screen, it sends you straight into fight or flight mode, adrenaline rushing through your system. In medicine this is called the placebo effect. And you’re going to get the chance to try it out for yourselves.
So, right now could you please find someone in the room that you do not like? I’m kidding. Turn towards your neighbor, find a neighbor, turn towards them and look closely at their eyes, stay silent. Look closely at their eyes. All right, when you’re ready, close your eyes. Close your eyes, ladies and gentlemen. I want you to think of a problem at work. Something annoying, irritating, something of which the outcome is uncertain, something embarrassing, something potentially harmful. Really get into the feelings of that problem. Now open your eyes. Look at each other.
All right. Close your eyes. Close your eyes again. Think of someone you have great affection for. This could be a human being, this could be a pet, this could even be a stuffed animal. And try to get really into those feelings of affection. How much they mean to you and the affection you have for them. Feel into the warmth, feel into this tenderness. Get into these feelings as much as you can. Now open your eyes and look at each other.
I promise you will get a chance to talk to your new best friends afterwards. Where did you see the biggest difference? You saw a difference in their face, right? Where did you see the biggest difference? In the eyes. The eyes. What are the eyes? How many of you are thinking of the windows to the soul? Absolutely true, because the area around the eyes is the most mobile of the entire human face and therefore the most expressive, which is why poker players wear sunglasses. And why shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis also used to wear sunglasses when he was negotiating contracts. So that his opponents could not know what he was thinking.
When two human beings look deeply into one another’s eyes, what happens? Love, yes. When two human beings look deeply into one another’s eyes, there is an adrenaline like substance called phenylethylamine or PEA that goes gushing through your bloodstream and theirs. It is the same substance that produces the phenomenon we call love at first sight. You want that substance.
In studies where complete strangers were asked to stare at each other, after a few minutes, participants reported increased affection, and some even passionate feelings for one another. So obviously here also you don’t want to overdo it, but it can be very effective.
Now what are the obstacles to warmth? Interestingly, they can be the same as the obstacles to presence or power. For example, it’s hard to be emitting warmth when you’re in the grip of self-criticism. Have you ever been in conversation when you say something and you immediately think, ooh, that was a stupid thing to say? What happens to your face? It grimaces. What emotions show on your face? All of them, okay. Let’s get specific.
When you’re thinking, ooh, that was a stupid thing to say, what emotions show on your face? Stress, shame, embarrassment, all of that. Coldness, criticism, et cetera, yes.
Now this is self-criticism, self-directed tension, coldness or judgment, yes? But they don’t know that. All they know is that while you were looking at them, listening to them, and presumably thinking about them, they did see tension, coldness or criticism on your face. So naturally, what are they going to assume? That it’s about them.
Think about that. The next time that you’re speaking with someone on their face, you see tension, criticism or coldness, it might not have anything to do with you. In fact, in most cases I would say it’s self-directed. Never assume your immediate assumption is the valid one.
So once you know that your immediate assumption is not necessarily valid, the next step is to choose a more charisma-enhancing one. This is called rewriting reality and here’s how it works.
Imagine this: it’s 8 AM on a Monday morning. You’re driving on the freeway on your way to a really important meeting. You will be giving a 30 minute presentation, which could change the course of your career. You’re focused, you’re calm, you’re ready. When all of a sudden a huge black car swerves in front of you, cuts you off, so with your heart racing and your hands gripping the steering wheel, you stomp on the brake. The car keeps swerving in and out of your lane and finally abruptly exits the freeway. What an idiot, reckless driver!
Now what happened to your body during this episode? A fight or flight response made your heartbeat accelerate, your muscles tighten, and stress hormones flood your system. You know you need to get back into a charismatic mental and physical state for your presentation, but you only have a few minutes and you can’t get that incident out of your mind. You could try to suppress the anger, but as Stanford researchers found, when people are asked to suppress negative emotions their internal experience often remains unchanged. And they sustain activated — elevated activation in their amygdala and their cardiovascular system.
What if instead, through a fluke coincidence, you were to learn that that apparently idiotic, reckless driver was actually a distraught mother whose baby was choking in the back seat and it’s all she could do to even keep the car on the highway while trying to save the baby’s life. Would that immediately alleviate your anger? For most people, it would.
Deciding to change your belief about what happened, which is technically called cognitive reframing, effectively decreases the stress in the brain. In most situations in life, you’ll never find out if it was an idiot driver or a distraught mother. So, you might as well choose whichever version of reality puts you in the most useful mental state. So that’s how you remove the obstacles to warmth.
How do you actually create warmth? With the exercise that we did earlier, imagining someone for who we have great affection actually works, and thanks to placebo effect, the warmth actually will be genuine. Everything will be in congruence. You’re fine.
However, what if you’re dealing with a really difficult person? I am sure all of you have at least one of them in your lives. If not, come talk to me; I can lend you a few.
What do you do then? Well, a couple of things you can try. First, pick three things about that person that you can approve of. I don’t care if it’s that they were on time. If they weren’t on time, at least they showed up or their shoes were shined. What this does is that it sends your brain down a certain path which then, of course, impacts your body language.
Next techniques are related to empathy. Think about their past, their childhood. What was it like growing up in their family of origin and having their awkward teenage-hood? Maybe you would have turned out exactly like them or as John Bradford put it, “there but for the grace of God, go I.”
Third technique, imagine their present. What’s happened to them yesterday or this morning? Maybe they are feeling really anxious. And, if you’re having trouble getting into an empathetic state, go nuclear. I don’t care what you have to imagine, whatever is the worst scenario you could possibly imagine, whether it’s their spouse asking them for divorce that morning, whether they’ve lost their 2.5 children that day, anything that works. The brain does not know the difference between imagination and reality.
So, with that said, I think that’s just about all we can say about warmth.
So, to recap once more, charisma is presence, power and warmth. All three components are critical to achieve charisma. The only thing that changes is what kind of charisma you get, depending on which element is strongest.
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.
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.
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.
Olivia Fox Cabane: How do you reconcile being authentic with learning charisma? So, if you recall back to the exercises we did, what we were doing was not controlling the body language, but controlling your mind, yes? And, what I am trying to get you to do is to truly, authentically feel internally the emotions that you want to portray. The other way that I can tell you is am I being inauthentic by speaking English with you right now?
Audience: So, what’s your mother tongue?
Olivia Fox Cabane: Aha, exactly! English is not my mother tongue. My mother tongue is French. However, I am choosing to use a language that’s going to hopefully get the message across in the best way. Charisma is a language in that same manner and it’s choosing to use the tools which will make your message most effective. Hope this helps. Yes?
Audience: So, I’ve read the book entitled ‘The Harvard Negotiation Project’ —
Olivia Fox Cabane: Yes.
Audience: And one of the tactics they mention in helping even the playing field is acknowledging openly what the opponent or your negotiating partner is doing. So, you can — if they sit you in a small chair and put a light on you, you acknowledge that and it shuts down the effect.
Olivia Fox Cabane: Naming the elephants in the room.
Audience: So, if you — if someone is being charismatic, you know they’re trying to manipulate you, if you acknowledge that.
Olivia Fox Cabane: Name the charisma, that’s a brilliant way of handling it. Absolutely, very good point. So, The Harvard Negotiation Project which came out with fantastic stuff amongst which the book Difficult Conversations which I highly recommend, one of the outcomes of that was that naming a dynamic often eases that dynamic and makes it less powerful. So, in this case if you — if — if you are certain that someone is intentionally using charisma to manipulate you, naming it can lessen the situation. In the same way, vulnerability can be a wonderful power tool in creating emotional bonds, naming situation, and diffusing it. I think we have time for one more question? One more question, whichever it might be. Yes?
Audience: Can your powerful presence conflict with your portrayal of warmth?
Olivia Fox Cabane: Can your powerful presence conflict with your portrayal of warmth? You can actually portray both of them at the same time. So, it gets really interesting because a lot of the power comes through your stance and your posture and your poise. So, one quick thing to check if you want to be emanating power is how much and how rapidly you are nodding. Too often people who are feeling insecure or nervous will have a lot of self-reassuring behaviors, self-touching behaviors which are seen by behavioral scientists as low-status individual trying to reassure a high status and they will also be nodding because they really want to show you that they’re really, really listening to what you’re saying so checking that. So, it’s more about having the power in your stature. The warmth comes so much, if we’re getting specific, from your eyes and your voice. That warm eyes, warm voice, it doesn’t matter how much body — powerful body language you have, it combines very well. Did I answer your question?
Yes. Awesome. Wow! Thank you.
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