Sunday, 28 April 2013

Talking about.... Charisma!

“You have just one opportunity to make a first good impression!”

I’m sure you heard this one before, right? Well, guess what? It is TRUE!

Our body, our posture, our presence tells a lot about us! Non-verbal communication is our primal survival skill. Before verbal communication, that was the most important skill we had to recognize the message coming from other being, if the encounter was going to be friendly or aggressive. And, based on the outcome of that “impression” depended if we were going to be shaking hands or turned out to be the main course of someone else’s diner!

Studies show that takes only TWO seconds to make this “vital” decision. Fight or flight.

If it is only two seconds what we have to create a first good impression …. We better get it right from the beginning!

So, what do we have to do, or to have, to create this first good impression, to be this nice and welcoming, pleasant person that everybody loves, everybody wants to hang around, everybody wants to listen to?

What about improving our Charisma!? You are probably thinking… “but charisma is something we are born with”…, right? Well, Olivia Fox, in her book, The Charisma Myth, demystify the subject and tells us that charisma is something we learn in a very early age of our lives. But the good news is.... we can still learn it as adults.

Sharing Olivia's insights I also believe that mastering Charisma can improve our nonverbal communication. Charisma is about Presence, Power and Warmth.

Presence is the real core of charisma. To be present not only means to be physically present, it really means to be connected, to build trust, to be engaged with the person you are talking to, with your audience. You really need to be a good listener. Otherwise you can be seen as inauthentic, and nothing ruins trust and charisma faster than being inauthentic.

Being Present is about showing people that you care; that you want to connect to them; that they matter to you. Remember this:

People don’t really care how much you know, until they know how much you care!

*Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone were both politicians of extraordinary ability in the Victoria Era in the British Empire. However, their personalities clashed and they heartily loathed each other. 

Jennie Jerome was Winston Churchill's mother, an American, who happened to dine with both man in a certain occasion and she declared: "When I left the dining room after sitting next to Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest man in England. But when I sat next to Disraeli I left feeling that I was the cleverest woman in England." *

Guess who Queen Victoria “picked” for the powerful position of her Prime Minister in 1868? Mr. Disraeli, of course. 

Charisma is not just how we make people feel about us, it is also about how we make them feel about themselves! Don’t try to impress them, let them to impress you! And show it!

Second element of charisma: Power.

Power is our perception of others' ability to affect the world around them! It can be through raw physical abilities, money, positions, influences, etc. We look for clues of power in the person’s appearance, in others reaction around that person, but above all, in the person’s nonverbal communication.

As per Amy Cuddy, a Harvard researcher in body language, changing our pose/posture can influence not only the perception that others, our audience, have of us but can also change our own brain, and therefore our body physical expressions.

She made a study where people were asked to be in a room and to stay for 2 minutes in different poses, which were called High Power Poses, and Low Power Poses. After 2 minutes in each pose those people were put through some tough job interviews for 5 minutes.

And guess what? Not only the people involved in the experiment reported how differently they felt after each different pose (more confident or less, had better results on the interviews, or not, depending on the pose), but also some hormone levels of their own bodies changed after the experiment in each different pose.

It was reported that after the High Power Pose, the level of Testosterone (the hormone related to power) increased substantially while Cortisone (the hormone related to stress) decreased. And, after the Low Power pose experience, the level of Testosterone decreased (less power) and the level of Cortisone (more stress) increased.

What Amy Cuddy wanted to prove with this experiment was that not only our minds can change our body but also, the other way around; our body can change our minds.

When we assume a “High Power Pose”, we feel more powerful, and our mind 'believes' it; and internally we have a chemical boost (where anxiety decreases and assertiveness increases), and that makes we feel great! It is a cycle. And our job is to keep this cycle going. How?

When athletes are learning how to perform, they use imagination/visualization to condition their brain to get to the mental state they need for peak performance. We should do the same.

And the good news is… our mind doesn't differentiate imagination from reality! If we start conditioning our minds to become something we really want to become, and work on that, and believe we can achieve it, our minds will then believe it too, and in a matter of time it will become part of us.

Third aspect of charisma: Warmth!

We perceive warmth almost entirely through body language and behavior. It is evaluated even more directly than power. And, the bad news is…. We can not fake it!

Warmth is fully related to AUTHENTICITY! And as I mentioned before, been perceived as inauthentic is the worse that could happen to any person. And as leaders in our fields, if we are not authentic we won't have the power to motivate, inspire, influence others. In fact, no one will follow us.

Authenticity is related to self-confidence. When you are happy to be who you are you come out as you, nobody else, so, you are authentic, and people might love or hate you, but they can’t say that there is some “hidden agenda” about you.

We can change and improve our posture, polish our gestures depending on the environment we are, we can correct bad habits when in public, once we are aware of our body expressions.

But we can not really learn body language, otherwise we will be performing/acting, we will be inauthentic. Body language, our nonverbal communication comes from within. From whom we are. It is a real expression of how we feel about ourselves, our beliefs, values and emotions.

To enhance and improve our nonverbal communication, our body language, we will have to work from within; enhancing our self-esteem, confidence, and then expressing ourselves naturally from deep inside.

Charisma is the utmost expression of your nonverbal communication, of your body language. Once you work on your self-confidence, enhancing your charisma, taking into account: your Presence, your Power and your Warmth; you can then relax, because your own body will do the job.

And two seconds will be more than enough for you to give a first great impression, and deliver your message in the most amazing and authentic way.



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