How to increase your charisma?

This is a summary of the short talk given by Olivia Fox Cabane, Chief Charisma Coach, at the Future of the Workforce event 2016.

As a keynote speaker and executive coach to the leadership of Fortune 500 companies, Olivia helps people become more persuasive, influential, and inspiring. From a base of thorough behavioral science, she extracts the most practical tools for business, applying the latest in global behavioral science to everyday leadership needs to improve her clients’ productivity, effectiveness and efficiency.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression

This is call the primacy effect… and it’s important, because everything you will do after that first impression will be filtered through that first impression. Make a good first impression and odds will be stacked in your favour ; fail to make a good impression and you will have a mountain to climb to overturn this first impression…

So, how long do you think you have to make a good first impression?

2 seconds…

You have about 2 seconds to make a first impression. This first impression is based on instincts. It has nothing to do with culture, continent or education. It goes back to our hunter-gathered times when men had to trust their instinct to survive and about 2 seconds to decide to what to do when confronted to danger…

So, when meeting people for the first time, your (and their) first impression will be determined by three things in fact:

1) the fist 2 seconds

As mentioned above, the first 2 seconds is the period during which you will assess each other to decide:

  • “fight or flight”: you will be particularly attentive to size, gender and age of your “opponent”
  • “friend or foe”: you will be studying the clothing (is s/he wearing the right “tribal wear”) and the body language (confidence, open or close, smile, etc…)

By the way, within 30 seconds, they will have also judged your education and level of social success…

2) the hand-shake

Then comes the hand-shake (with the right hand as it shows you carry no weapon and therefore are not a danger… unless you are left-handed, in which case you can still shake the right-hand and stab them with the left!):

  • Avoid the bad hand-shake: dead-fish hand-shake
  • Go for the good hand-shake: straight, no dominant or submissive posture ; hand slightly convex and ensure maximum palm contact ; better too strong  a grip than too weak – people will get over a firm hand-shake, but wont get over a hand-shake that is too weak ; shake one or two seconds, release and let go
  • You can try the politician hand-shake: a double-handers to convey an impression of trust and honesty; other variants include simple hand-shake and tap on the arm or shoulder, or grab of the elbow

3) the speaking

Finally, the last element is obviously how you will speak. The secret is about how you make people feel about themselves during the conversation. It should not be just about you, you and you…

Charisma is not something you have or have not

Indeed your level of charisma can be increased (and resp. lowered) by displaying (un-)charismatic behaviours. In order to increase your charisma, you will therefore have to work on three points:

1) presence

Charisma is about being 100% present in the discussion. If you are not, people will notice it through your body language. There is way too much body language going on to be able to control it consciously (about thousands of signals every minute), and people will eventually capture a micro-expression showing that you are not 100% there…

A good tip if you feel you are starting to “wander around”, perform a quick head-to-toes mental body check, this will force you to be physically present, and then go back to your conversation.

2) power

This is about the perception by others of your ability to impact the world. This is mostly read through your body language. The perception of your interlocutor will be driven by how much “space” you take.

You need to think of the gorilla banging its chest to look bigger then it seems, or the 5-star general review the troops, with his feet wide apart, his hands behind his back and his chin up, so his chest sticks out. It is also visible when sitting on a chair, with your bum on one seat, your arm laying on the adjacent one, or in your office, with your feet resting on the desk…

3) warmth

This is a 100% body language sign and is primarily read through your eyes. Eyes are the window to your soul.

A good tip to increase your warmth is the visualisation method. This works through a quirk of our brain who makes it difficult to separate imagination from reality. So before meeting someone, close your eyes for a moment and think about you very old/best friend and all the good moments you have spent together. This will bring warmth into your eyes. Open your eyes and be ready to welcome your new friend.

I hope we will meet soon!

More information:


One thought on “How to increase your charisma?

  1. Pingback: What happens when you live 100 years? | Lionel Guerraz' Blog

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