I am an introvert. Like many fellow PPC marketers, I am very comfortable alone, behind a computer screen of spreadsheets with headphones on.
The reality is that for many of us to have the career we dream of, we have to get out from behind the computer and convince other people to believe in our ideas.
In 2012, I was promoted from the role of senior PPC analyst to department manager. I couldn’t hide behind my computer anymore. The job of a manager is to focus on improving the daily life of the people on the team and setting a direction everyone believes in.
I struggled to adapt to my new role. I had lots of ideas for new improvements backed up by data and beautiful charts. Unfortunately, most of my ideas never became reality. After a few months on the job, frustration was setting in. That’s when I stumbled on the work of Olivia Fox Cabane.
She opened my eyes to a new secret weapon, a weapon that helped me get things done faster when working with clients and co-workers. It was (and still is) a tool that is easily overlooked by digital marketers: charisma.
Building Your Personal Charisma
Fox Cabane is a true expert on charisma. My first exposure to her thoughts on charisma was from a talk she gave to Stanford Business School students in 2012.
I highly recommend finding 45 minutes to listen. The speech and Q&A is packed with fascinating insights on charisma and practical advice for building your own. What struck me most from her speech was her insistence that charisma can be learned. It’s a tool or asset that can be improved just like Excel skills or coding.
It’s a myth that people like Steve Jobs were innately charismatic. Jobs worked hard on improving his charisma.
Not everyone will end up Steve Jobs, but everyone can improve their own life by displaying more charisma.
Play Chemist With Your Brain
Charisma is an applied science. There are actionable ways you can start improving your charisma today. You can trick your brain. Imagine biting into a lemon. Now imagine fingernails on a chalkboard. You probably had a reaction to these completely made up thoughts. It’s important to remember your brain and body can’t tell the difference between imagination and reality. The same hormones are released.
Most of Fox Cabane’s advice is designed to help you outsmart your own brain into enhancing the three pillars of charisma:
Presence: The Core of Charisma
The most important aspect of being charismatic is being present in the moment. So often when we are in a conversation our mind is thinking about something else.
Fox Cabane talks about how people can read delays in facial reactions down to 17 milliseconds. You may feel like you have a great poker face but people can tell when you aren’t engaged or focused. Delays in reactions give people the feeling that you are being inauthentic. Nothing ruins trust or charisma faster than being seen as inauthentic.
You can’t fake it. You have to be in the moment…to be in the moment. The brain has a limited capacity for focus. This has been proven by famous examples cited by Fox Cabane like the selective attention test:
Brain Chemistry Tricks to Improve Presence:
- Take two seconds and focus on your toes. Seriously. Think about your toes. Feel the sensations they are experiencing. This forces your brain to do a full body scan. It’s crazy but it works. Whenever I do this, I get a tingly sensation and am pulled right back into the moment.
- Focus on the colors of the eyes of the person you are speaking with. But don’t over do it. A little eye contact goes a long way. If you are craning your neck, you are doing it wrong.
Power: Does Someone Believe You Can Affect the World Around You
Power is perceived by others through your demeanor and body language. A lack of self-confidence is a major deterrent to positive demeanor and body language.
Brain Chemistry Tricks to Improve Confidence:
- Trick your brain by simply adopting more “confident” body posture. Stand up straight, throw your shoulders back, or stretch out your legs if sitting. Studies show that just by standing more confidently, the brain releases hormones associated with heightened confidence.
- Low self-confidence is often the result of negative thoughts. The brain can easily distort reality and process obviously inaccurate thoughts as true. Not all thoughts are valid and you have to help your brain get rid of the bad. Fox Cabane recommends that while meandering around the streets of your mind, view ugly thoughts as bad graffiti that can be easily ignored.
Warmth: How Do You Make Other People Feel About Themselves
Warmth is the ability to generate empathy — no matter the scenario — so that you can be a “more useful version of yourself” according to Fox Cabane. Working with difficult people or in difficult situations can put a strain on your charisma.
Brain Chemistry Tricks to Generate Warmth and Empathy:
- Fox Cabane describes an event where you get recklessly cut off by a car on your way to a big meeting. The car then cuts off three more cars when it swerves off the highway. You react with a fight or flight type response. Your heart is beating fast and you are aggravated. In these types of moments, consider rewriting your own reality. Tell yourself the driver of the car was a mom with a choking kid in the back seat (or a similar scenario) to get yourself back to level. Remember, your brain can’t tell the difference between reality and imagination.
- Have to interact with a tough co-worker? Pick three things about them you approve of. Tell yourself a story about their morning, week, or childhood that fosters empathy toward them (regardless if the story is true or not).
How Can You Harness Charisma?
Building your personal charisma is a lifelong journey. Fox Cabane has a detailed list of exercises on her website to help you improve.
For me, Fox Cabane’s advice has made me a much better listener. I still regularly fail to give my full attention to those around me. But when I feel myself being uncharismatic, I remember to play chemist with my brain and fall back on her advice.