My mental faculties used to abandon me when I needed them most. In high school, I’d be comfortable and funny hanging out with my friends, but as soon as a pretty girl entered the room, I’d go into Defcon 5. My ribs and chest would tighten. My mouth would lock shut. My arms would secrete glue and stick to my sides. The most I could muster was a shy smile before getting the heck out of the room.
Before a presentation, I’d have complete command over the material. But then I’d get up there and freak myself out. Once it was time to field questions, my brain would be so overcharged, I’d come off confused instead of confident – which is crazy because I KNEW the answers to the questions I was getting.
Have you had this experience? One moment you feel totally “on.” Then maybe an hour or a day later, when you wish you could just push that “on” button, it’s nowhere to be found? This article will teach you to find that “on” button. Just to be clear, in the moments before you need it, there isn’t anything you can do to build your baseline charisma.
Which you should. Having a high baseline charisma will change your life. You’ll earn more money, attract amazing people into your life, and get a disproportionate amount of “lucky” breakthrough opportunities. All that is great and is in the book. But for now, let’s assume you’ve got just a few minutes, maybe only a few seconds, before you need to knock it out of the park. You’re working with the skills you’ve got. You can still play at the top of YOUR game and come out a huge winner. Here ‘s how:
Get present by allowing yourself dead time.
The moments before a big encounter are often hectic. You’re prepping questions for an interview, reviewing your pitch, wondering what you’re going to say to the person you want to talk to across the room…. Your head is racing. Best case, you’re visualizing how great it will go. Worst case, you’re imagining the flaming wreckage once you crash and burn.
Either way, bad news: If you are off thinking about something else, doubting yourself, or reviewing of all the tactical things you need to get right, you’re crippling your charisma. A huge component of connecting with people is being present. And you can’t do that if you’re stuck in your own head. So a few minutes before any interaction you want to go well, stop. Just stop. Take 30 seconds to be completely anti-charismatic. I like to say “take 30 seconds to suck.”
I mean it. Don’t be social. Don’t be charismatic. Release all desire to impress anyone. Just stand there. Be the most boring person in the room. It won’t take more than a minute or two, but don’t put a time cap on it. If you’re in a work environment, you can go to the bathroom. Stand and breathe. If you’re in a public space, a bar or networking event, get out of conversation. Allow yourself to NOT be “on” for a period. Stand alone, without checking your phone or trying to look cool, and breathe.
You’ve probably heaped loads of pressure on yourself. This time of NOT being a social force is huge. It allows you to put the mounting expectations behind you. It allows you to clear space to actually feel good about what’s to come. You’ll know you’re ready when your breath has deepened and your thoughts have started to slow.
Choose and embody your emotions.
So you’ve punched the release valve on your tension. Now, it’s time to build the energy back up. This is massive. If you take one thing from this article, please let it be this: When we get nervous, our body goes into a particular physical pose.
You know it. Go ahead – act it out at home. You hunch, you lower your head, you avoid eye contact, you take up less space, your movements become hampered as you tense though your body, your breathing becomes shallow, your voice get’s quiet and shrill. When we’re confident and composed it’s very much the reverse. Go ahead – put on confident and composed. Just sit that way while you’re reading.
Your chin lifts, your shoulders pull back, you make comfortable eye contact, you smile, you uncross your arms, you gesticulate in large motions, your face becomes more expressive when speaking, your breath slows, your voice gets louder and deeper. No duh, right? You knew this before. You didn’t need me to tell you that people stand up straighter when they’re feeling confident. Your mom told you that. So what’s the breakthrough here?
The breakthrough is this:
“Emotions don’t come to us, we go to them” – Tony Robbins
So if you want to feel ANY emotion at ANY point in your lie—in this case confident and charismatic—all you have to do is embody it. You’ll feel it in seconds.
This is why NFL teams do this before every game:
They pump their fists, they chant with their deepest voices, they shout what they want to do (AKA “Win.”)
This is exactly what I’m suggesting you do. When you want to turn it on, stand like you would stand if you were feeling charismatic. Move like you would move. Speak like you would speak.
Even if you’re not feeling it. Decide to embody charisma.
Within a few minutes MAX, you will have completely changed how you feel. And done what most people never do: choose their emotional state. More on this here.
Support with music and video.
Everyone has a different emotion that allows them to be their most resourceful. And if you can tap into yours on command, well, then you can be more resourceful on command…
More humorous on command
More spontaneous on command
More eloquent on command
More persuasive on command
So think back to a time you were really charismatic? How did you feel? What were your thoughts? Were you funny? Serious? Intense? Name the emotion, because that is the one you will want to be able to turn on at a moment’s notice. Personally, I love silly, fun, and playful. I feel looser, more spontaneous, more insightful, and more persuasive.
So I aim to feel playful prior to most interactions, including most speeches. Anything I can do to facilitate “playful” is going to help. That’s why this is THE video I tend to watch before I go out to meet new people in any context:
I know. Crazy that a ridiculous dancer would help me connect better with people, but what can I say? Playful does it for me.
I recommend you find a short clip that does it for you. If your most resourceful emotion isn’t playful, that’s fine. Here are some clips that will take you in other directions. Find what’s best for you.
Get social practice.
World-class sprinters never run a race without stretching first. Apply the same principle to charisma and you’ll perform at a much higher level. The only difference is, stretching for a race means hanmstrings and glutes. Stretching before an interaction means voicebox and ears.
If you want to interview well, force yourself to talk to the secretary, the other job applicants. If you’re about to give a speech or presentation, talk to people back stage. If you want to feel great in a bar or networking event, chat up the taxi driver, the coat check guy, and the first person you walk in and see.
And if there is absolutely no one there to speak to, talk to yourself. I run around my house doing this all the time. Yes, you’I look insane to anyone who happens to walk in on you. But you’ll be ready to blow them away with your energy.
At the outset of a speech or a meeting or even a date, tensions are high. People are trying to present the most impressive side of themselves. This keeps people focused how they are being perceived rather than relaxing into a natural interaction.
So cut the tension with an EARLY joke.
Why early? Because if you wait until halfway through the interaction, you’ve already set the tone. Plus, the serious part of any interview or presentation is the middle. There is room to lighten the mood as people settle in.
So within the first 30 seconds of a new, important interaction, find a make to lighten the mood. The simplest way to crack a joke is to say an obvious non-truth about a shared experience.
For instance, if you’ve got a meeting in a hot room:
“Well thanks for coming everyone. This is going to be a very informative meeting. I only wish it were just a few degrees warmer in here. If anyone needs a blanket please let me know.”
Or if you’re waiting at the bar next to someone you’ve just been introduced to and it’s taking a long time:
“It’s pretty awesome that this bar takes 45 minutes of rest between each drink they serve. That way I’m sure to be nice and sober no matter how many drinks I buy!”
Cheesy? Sure. But the point isn’t to be a world-class comedian. It’s to cut the tension inherent at the outset of every interaction. Set a comfortable tone early and you’ll instantly be more likable.
So there you go, a 5 step process to turn it “on” whenever you want.
Don’t take my word for it though, TRY it. See how quickly you can go from feeling reserved to feeling energized and confident. Done with conviction, these steps will take you to your current peak.
But charisma doesn’t stop there.
In fact there is a TON you can do to perfect your eye contact, tonality, body language, wit, and delivery. You can level up your charisma massively. And when you take your charisma to the next level AND learn to bring it on command, that’s when you become the person who naturally draws others to you. Who makes incredible impressions everywhere you go.