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Charisma Isn’t About Appearance. It’s About How You Communicate With Others

Charisma Isn’t About Appearance. It’s About How You Communicate With Others

You don’t have to be a Kardashian to have allure. Money, designer clothes, good looks and your own reality TV show won’t automatically give you personal appeal. The key to charisma lies way beneath the sparkly sequins and materialistic trappings. It’s actually all about how you communicate with other people. And the really good news? A study by Professor Kenneth Levine at the University of Tennessee found that the characteristics of charismatic people included: empathy, good listening skills, eye contact, enthusiasm, and self-confidence[1]. Those traits are not wrapped up in your genes- they can be learned!

Here are a few tips on building your communication skills to help pave the way to acquiring a more charismatic personality.

Learn to query, not interrogate

“Hey, where did you get that shirt? And those shoes? Where did you buy that skirt?” Has anyone ever shot questions at you like they were unloading a machine gun? Did it make you feel like ducking and diving for cover? Sure, all good conversations start with a question, but a deluge of multiple queries turns a good talk into an FBI interrogation, and you’ll have your subject running for the hills.

Instead of the cross-examination, pepper your chat with statements between those curious inquiries. Then, your barrage of questions becomes a conversation. “Hey, nice shirt. The color matches you eyes. Where did you find it? Awesome. I’ve never shopped there myself. Those shoes look comfortable. Those heels look 3 inches. I’d probably fall flat on my face if I wore them! Are they easy to walk in? I saw a pair like those at the mall.”

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Concentrate your efforts on having a discussion, not an interview.

Be brutally honest

Think about the charismatic people you know and admire. Do they act worried about offending people? Though they wouldn’t be cruel, charismatic people tend to be open and shockingly honest. They talk to others as if they were hanging out with their best buds. They don’t let being politically correct rule their lives. Ironically, this draws more people to them, as they say things other people wish they could.

Engaging in genuine honesty will initially feel awkward. It takes practice. Be sure to inject a light-hearted humor into your conversation. Learn to laugh at yourself and your own faults. Being honest means seeing yourself in a true light too- your faults and shortcomings along with your talents and specialties.

Not everyone will appreciate brutal honesty, and charismatic people can make enemies in the PC crowd. Be aware of this ahead of time. However, by practising genuine honesty, you may find more people seeking you out for your advice and opinions. Wouldn’t you like to know whether that new dress really looked good on you rather than hearing the “you look fine” pitch of a saleslady?

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Honesty really IS the best policy.

Show your vulnerabilities

You tend to shy away from the things that make you feel weak and ashamed, like the time you inhaled the carton of Rocky Road ice cream after you saw your boyfriend talking to his ex, or when you hung out with your friends, drank way too much beer and dialed that girl you liked in high school. Yeah. Totally not cool.

Everyone makes mistakes. Don’t be afraid of showing your vulnerabilities by telling an embarrassing story about yourself. By owning up to one, you descend from that pedestal and seem more approachable, relatable and human.

Vulnerability researcher, speaker and writer Brené Brown said: “Vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, love, belonging, creativity and faith.”

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Embrace your vulnerabilities and share those stories to help you to connect with others.

Make others feel special

You know when you’ve met a charismatic person because you come away from a conversation feeling special. People love to be around these individuals because they make others feel special. Raise your emotional intelligence levels, also known as EQ (emotional quotient), by making others feel important.

See a person you’ve met before? Greet them like an old friend. Smile and be genuine. Don’t just listen to them, but make eye contact. Be interested in what they are saying and stay fully engaged in the conversation. Use non-verbal cues like voice pitch, facial expressions to help you read how they are feeling about the subject[2].

Remember the little details in the conversation. Did she say she liked John Mayer’s music? Play a Mayer song later on. Did he mention the Pittsburgh Steelers? Slide it into the conversation later. Showing you were paying attention to them by remembering those little details make people feel appreciated and special.

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Make your conversations a celebration of “them,” not you.

Charisma is learned, not bought. Don’t fret over your lack of chinos and loafers or emerald-studded stilettoes; communication skills are the path to raising your charisma levels. Practice spacing your questions with statements, showing genuine honesty, becoming more human by daring to reveal your vulnerabilities and raising that EQ by making others feel special. Engagement doesn’t always need a ring; be more charismatic by becoming an engaging conversationalist.

Featured photo credit: GLady via pixabay.com

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Sally White

writer, artist & blogger

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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