By Eric Barker
May 1, 2014

Who Hasn’t Wanted To Be Cool?

We’ve all wanted to be cool. But research shows that it’s not merely a shallow desire. Cool makes a difference in life.

For instance, charismatic leaders bring out people’s best.

Via The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism:

But can we become more cool if we try?

Yes. Fake it until you make it works.

As Olivia Fox Cabane, author of The Charisma Myth, explains, attitude can be taught and improved:

So what is cool and how can we embody it?

1) Less

If I had to sum up cool in a word it would be: less.

Cool doesn’t try too hard. Thing is, trying is very effective in life and especially in relationships. So what gives?

By not trying, cool people signal, “I’m so smooth, I don’t have to try to get what I want.”

As Olivia Fox-Cabane points out: James Bond doesn’t plead, smile or fidget. He speaks slowly and calmly.

Via The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism:

(More on the science behind why James Bond is so sexy here.)

2) Confidence

Want to know a quick trick for getting people to like you? Assume they already do.

Yes, we all love confidence. Combine doing less with supreme confidence and you have the essence of cool.

Researchers gave people a course in charisma and one of the factors that produced results was acting confident.

It’s no surprise, but research shows self-esteem is sexy and looking stressed is not. For men, modesty can actually be a negative:

(More on how to increase confidence here.)

3) Know The Rules — And Break Them

People who are cool aren’t oblivious to proper behavior, in fact, they’re socially savvy.

But they deliberately break the rules when it benefits them.

In the paper “Coolness: An Empirical Investigation” rebelliousness was found to be a key component of cool:

Why is rule breaking cool? Breaking the rules makes you appear powerful.

(More on how to appear powerful here.)

4) Focus On Attitude And Body Language Will Follow

Are my hands fidgeting? Am I biting my lip? Am I nodding too much? Is my speech slow enough? …That’s enough to drive you insane.

As Fox-Cabane explains, there’s no way to monitor and optimize what every part of your body is doing. It’s just too much:

So how do we make our body language more cool? By feeling cool on the inside, our body language will reflect that:

(More on how to read people’s body language here.)

5) Cool Isn’t Always The Coolest

Being cool may be a positive but don’t assume it’s the best attitude for all situations. There is no single perfect way to be.

Being distant creates intrigue but the power of showing interest in others has been scientifically validated over and over again.

Sometimes being an outright jerk pays big dividends. Ironically, so does vulnerability.

While seeming detached and calm has its benefits, so does being very enthusiastic.

Via The Tell: The Little Clues That Reveal Big Truths about Who We Are:

(More on when nice guys finish first — or last — here.)

Sum Up

Let’s round it all up:

  1. Less
  2. Be Confident
  3. Know The Rules And Break Them
  4. Focus On Attitude And Body Language Will Follow
  5. Cool Isn’t Always The Coolest.

Now get out there and be cool… but don’t try too hard.

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Related posts:

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4 Lifehacks From Ancient Philosophers That Will Make You Happier

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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