The Secret to Revving Up Your Charisma … No Matter Who You Are

My friend isn’t much of a looker. Beady eyes, patchy hair, and stout. The total opposite of tall, dark, and handsome. Yet, he draws in people like flies to honey. Girls love him and fly out on their own dime to be with him. He said, “I never had a girlfriend with looks I’m ashamed of.”

“This is one of the girls that couldn’t get enough of me.” He showed me the selfie of a petite, pale-skinned, highly-maintained Indian girl. Would bang. “She wanted to fly from California to see me. She tells me how much she misses me.”

Heck, even I am drawn to him, and I don’t like many people. He’s one of the coolest cats I know.

I thought about the mystery for a while: I don’t enjoy associating with most people, but why was he an exception?

I came up with the following answers:

  • He’s naturally alpha
  • He’s authentic
  • We share similar interests

But I didn’t like my answers. They felt incomplete, like isolated pockets of reason that don’t fit together nicely like a jig-saw puzzle. I filed the question to the back of my mind. One day I’ll find the answer.

Presence, Power, and Warmth

About a month ago, I did what I always do when I had free time. I surfed the internet, reading whatever caught my fancy. There was one sentence that stirred my interest:

Charisma is presence, power, and warmth.

I didn’t know if the definition of charisma was true, so I dug deeper. It came from Olivia Fox Cabane’s The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism. It seemed interesting so I picked up the copy the same day. I blazed through it in 2 days. And truthfully, I wasn’t too impressed. Too many mental voodoo for my tastes.

But I kept thinking about the sentence:

Charisma is presence, power, and warmth.

Is it true?

One of my favorite activities is to go for a nice stroll at dusk. I get my exercise and deep thought at the same time. That day, my mind ruminated on my past. I thought about the people I enjoyed being around.

My high school crush. The salesman in my internship during sophomore year of college. My childhood best friend.

What drew me to them?

I didn’t run with the popular crowd growing up. But it all changed in middle school. The cool kids loved basketball. They played basketball and collected basketball cards. I had a source who worked in the NBA and she received basketball cards for free. She gave me some. I’m talking about rare, highly-desired cards of the hottest players at the time — Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Jason Kidd, Anfernee Hardaway, and more.

The next day, I showed one of the cool kids my collection. He could not contain his excitement and told another cool kid. Word spread and by the end of the week. They wanted what I had and were willing to give an arm and leg in return. I joined the ranks of the cool kids. They invited me to play outdoor basketball. They invited me to birthday parties. They invite me to hang out and play video games. I could not believe the speed of my transformation from being a nobody to a somebody, all because of a few pieces of glossy cardboard.

What drew the cool kids to me?

Even I stumbled with treating all people with compassion. During my unenlightened youth, I looked down on some people. The one I have in mind is an awkward, but extremely bright man. He never fit in any groups. He was needy and boring. When he tried to join mine, I felt annoyed. I ignored him. I lashed out at him. But he never repaid my contempt with harshness.

When my computer broke, I was devastated. I freaked out because it contained my life’s work. I had no other computer. I brought it to him in desperation and he fixed it without asking for anything in return. Then it was as if someone flipped the switch. The annoyingness turned into a quirky charm. I treated him with as much kindness as I can muster. I even enjoyed his company.

What drew me to him?

In all instances, the charismatic person offered something of value.

My high school crush offered her beauty and presence.

The salesman offered respect from someone higher up in the organization.

My childhood best friend offered fidelity. He got my back no matter what.

I offered the cool kids access to rare basketball cards.

My socially-awkward friend offered to repair my computer.

Therefore, I agree with Olivia Fox Cabane that charisma requires power — the power to offer something of benefit. However, I do not agree with presence and warmth. Too much presence and too much warmth will lower your power and invite contempt. Even the all-powerful Jesus experienced contempt and said, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” No wonder the 16th law of power states to “use absence to increase respect and honor.”

More Power with a Dash of Presence and Warmth

My average-looking friend that only had supermodel girlfriend is not always present and warm. He cares about himself first. Priority #1. His friends second. Everyone else can scram. Yet, women cannot keep away. His secret? He plays hot and cold. First, he focuses his attention on them for a short while — just enough to keep them wanting more — then turns away. He ignores them most of the time, and they  keep knocking at his door.

What’s his allure? Power — specifically status, ambition, intelligence, and self-confidence. If I had to bet on the future success of one of my friends, I would choose his.

If you want to max out your charisma, acquire power, then add a bit of presence and warmth.

What does a maxed-out charisma look like for each of my aforementioned examples?

My high school crush will focus on her beauty and femininity — her sources of power. She will pay attention to me and will make me feel like the most important person in the world. However, she will not be accessible all the time. She will put up boundaries and not pass her body around like a cheap commodity.

The salesman from my internship will excel at making sales. He will be indispensable to the company. He will acknowledge my presence and focus his complete attention on me for a few minutes a day. He will look genuinely interested in what I have to say and for a brief moment, I will feel special that I have the ear of someone higher up.

My childhood best friend will be my equal. He will strive for excellence in life. He will give as much as he takes. He will not push me around or take crap from me. But in times of need, he will be there. And he will expect the same from me.

My young self will always have the hottest basketball cards in stock. I won’t give them away for free, but will entertain fair trades. My friendship with the cool kids will strengthen through shared activities outside of the card business. Although I was the newcomer, I will not be second tier to them.

My awkward friend will have valuable skills few people can reproduce, such as fixing computers. He will not allow people to take advantage of him. He will speak up when people cross the line. He is already friendly and scarce (withdrawn), but will work on his social skills to project more dominance and eloquence.

To charm men, acquire power and sprinkle it with a pinch of presence and warmth. Acknowledge a man’s presence. Focus your complete attention on him for a brief moment, just enough to let him know he’s someone special. Give him hope that you could use your power for his benefit.

To charm women, acquire power and sprinkle it with even less presence and warmth. Be the prize that is within reach, but never caught. Make them feel like they are on top of the world. Then leave and let them yearn for more. They will cherish the few moments of presence and warmth. Let their imagination build you up.

More than 10 years ago, Tom Leykis, a controversial American radio host, talked about the aftermath of becoming rich. At the time, he earned five-figures a week. Although his personality remained the same from his youth, women reacted to a rich Tom much differently than to a broke Tom. After acquiring wealth, women found his jokes funnier. The same jokes that did not get any laughs when he started out. Women enjoyed his company more, the same man who once struggled in undesirable radio jobs to make ends meet.

How? With wealth, came power. With power, came charisma.

Bottom line: You can’t go wrong with more power.

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