Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once described porn as: Hard to define, but “I know it, when I see it.” The same could be said for charisma. It’s hard to define because it takes on many forms through many personalities, but the affects of charisma are always the same: A likability of that person, being drawn to them and a willingness to trust them. With those effects on people, it’s not hard to see why they get what they want in life.
The bigger question is how can the rest of us become more charismatic and get what we want in life as well?
Charisma’s closest cousin in the business world is sales. They’re not one and the same, but great sales people are charismatic, and charismatic people get what they want because people like them and trust them.
Building likability and trust in a very short period of time is the quintessence of sales. What makes sales a great comparison with charisma is that with sales you can break it down to a set of teachable and learnable skills. In fact, that’s what sales programs and books are all about.
The core of sales isn’t talking as it’s often misunderstood, but listening. Great sales people spend most of their time listening and doing so acutely. They’re not distracted, but giving you their whole attention, making you feel interesting and important.
That’s one of the strongest effects charismatic people have. You’ll remember someone who tells a great story, but you’ll remember better someone who makes you feel great. Those are the charismatic people.
There’s a story of a reporter interviewing two candidates for president. After the first interview, she declared: “He’s was the most interesting person in Washington!” But after the second interview, she declared of the second candidate “I felt like I was the most interesting person in Washington!”
Great sales people give their full attention and ask great questions. It’s not “So, what do you do?,” but instead “So, tell me about what you do.”
Another characteristic of great sales people is that they’re persuasive.
Persuasiveness starts with agreeing with people. You can’t get people to like you if you’re disagreeing with them, correcting them or trying to be right. No one will remember if you’re right, and you won’t change anyone’s opinion through argument.
People want to be heard, not corrected or challenged. So allow them to be.
I was in a sales presentation to a vice president of top consumer electronics start up. A couple minutes into the meeting, she declared that she didn’t believe in what we did (paying influencers to promote brands and products). In the back of my mind, I thought, “Why, in god’s name, would you ever take this meeting then?!” I had flown up to San Francisco for this meeting and taken precious time from my work week, and now it seemed like a complete waste.
Instead of responding that way, I paused and composed myself. I smiled and responded, “It looks like you’ve done an amazing job marketing your company without having to [pay influencers]…”
She wanted attention and wanted to declare she was different. She also wanted to challenge me and would have gladly gotten into an argument if I had disagreed with her. Getting into an argument is probably the most effective way to ruin a sales meeting. Instead I agreed. Not only did I agree, but I noted that her approach had worked, and that allowed me for the eventual opportunity to be persuasive.
Being persuasive isn’t arguing effectively; it’s not arguing at all.
I asked her to tell me more about how she had created such success without paying influencers to promote their brand and product. She got her chance to talk, which is what she really wanted. Eventually, I brought up the point that many of our current customers were in her same position and shared why they tried our service.
So what are the things can you do to be more charismatic?
- Smile. You can’t sell in the world and you’ll never be considered charismatic if you’re in a bad mood. People are drawn to people who are in a good mood. Moods are contagious; spread the right one. My friend would do a trick at weddings he’d call “fake wedding table laugh.” At weddings, you’re often seated with a table of strangers. For this trick, he waits for a quiet moment during dinner and then has the whole table laugh out together, loudly. The affect is amazing. Most of the other tables look with jealously at the table that seems to be having the best time. The fake laugh created a bond and would soon lead to real laughs.
- Listen. I mean really listen to people. Make strong eye contact and give them your whole presence. Don’t pick up your phone, don’t let your eyes wander around the room. Both are cues that people interpret as you’re not interested in what they’re saying.
- Tell me more. Use that phrase or something like it during a conversation get all the details out of their story. The details are what will make their story different and are what they want you to remember.
- Remember the details. I transferred my junior year in high school. Before transferring I was on a visit and saw a play at the new school. The following fall, I ended up meeting the senior class president. He was captain of the soccer and hockey teams. Upon meeting him, I told him excitedly that I saw him in the play last spring and loved his performance. We ended up becoming friends, and years later, he recounted that story and how I stood out for remembering that. Everyone knew him as the athlete and class president, but I made a huge impression on him for noting what most people hadn’t paid attention to. When you see someone after meeting them and recant how their one story really made an impression on you, you will stand out to them.
- Discover what they love. Everyone has something they’re dying to share and talk about. Often it’s their hobbies, their kids or family, or their job. Almost always, it’s pretty easy to find out what these are. Ask about them and let them share.
- Talk to everyone you meet. My old boss raised millions of dollars for his biotech company. He met his first investor, who contributed millions of dollars, waiting in a long line to get concert tickets. Most people avoid talking to others throughout the day, at the coffee shop, in line, flying, etc. When you talk to everyone, talking to anyone gets much easier.
- Agree. Deep down we want to be right, we want to share our opinions and convince others of them. Fight that urge. When people sense disagreement, they put their guard up and prepare to defend their position. You’ll become friends much faster, by agreeing and moving on. Don’t let your opinions get in the way of getting to know someone.
- Connect. Charismatic people are connected. The world is filled with flakey people. The phrase “let’s grab lunch” is so commonplace, it’s become a way of saying goodbye rather than an actual intention of connecting. Most people crave real connections and have time to grab coffee, so do just that. End the conversation with, “I’d love to hear more and see who I might be able to introduce you too over coffee.” And then actually follow up with them. You build connections and positive relationships.
- Follow up. After meeting people, send them a note. If just to say you appreciated meeting them. Remind them of what you enjoyed about them or the experience, what inspired you, what you learned. These types of notes are really powerful and will make a huge impression.
This question originally appeared on Quora: Why do charismatic people easily get what they want in life?
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