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You Look Mahvelous!

A little charisma goes a long way. Here's how to get your share.
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the January 2001 issue of . Subscribe »

Charisma is defined in Webster's as "a special quality of leadership that captures the popular imagination and inspires allegiance and devotion." Or, in layman's terms, the quality that makes others think you're the cat's meow. It's that pizzazz that makes a country's subjects go into battle simply because their charismatic king wishes it. So maybe you don't need your employees to battle for you-but you'd like to be a leader who inspires them, right? And some charisma certainly couldn't hurt in those meetings with investors. Tony Alessandra, author of Charisma: Seven Keys To Developing The Magnetism That Leads To Success (Warner Books), gave us a bit of his charismatic wisdom.

Silence speaks. You're communicating before a single word is spoken: Your mannerisms, your gaze, your fidgety little habits-all those things paint a picture of who you are. "Think of your silent message as an invisible rainbow that surrounds you," says Alessandra. Some might call it aura-the vibe you give off starts even before you're in contact with others. If you foster a healthy emotional, psychological, intellectual, spiritual and physical life, people can tell. Don't fret if cynicism is second nature to you-a good outlook can be learned.

Don't label people. Truly charismatic people take the opinions and points of all people they meet into advisement. Don't value the opinion of a receptionist any less than the consultant: Each has his or her own special knowledge. "It takes intellectual strength to appreciate people's unique side and not judge them," says Alessandra. "Do so, and you'll win their respect-and maybe learn something."

Shut up and listen. Do you ever wonder why some folks always have hordes of people around them? It's probably because these beacons of charisma show a genuine interest in the lives of others by doing one simple thing: listening. "To get a full appreciation of what someone's saying," says Alessandra, "you need to ask questions, give feedback, remain objective, figure out what's being implied and interpret body language." Make your conversations true dialogues, not just a back and forth of monologues.

Put your best face forward. Beauty is skin-deep. True beauty is on the inside . . . yadda, yadda, yadda. While there's certainly truth to these statements, your professional appearance does count. All things being equal, do you hire the applicant who arrives in the clean, pressed suit with the professional-looking resume, or the flannel- and jeans-clad applicant with the crumpled, coffee-stained resume? Even if you'd personally choose the latter, take those extra minutes with your hair or attire. Not only will you impress others-you'll also feel better about yourself . . . and that's always charismatic.

Say something when you speak. Being able to articulate is one of the most prized skills. Whether you're giving a presentation to the board or talking about the latest project with a single employee, it's vital to speak and actually say something. That means knowing both your subject and to whom you're speaking. "Being able to stand on your feet confidently and express your thoughts clearly and logically is another key to charisma," says Alessandra. Charismatic speakers also know when to stop-nothing is more painful than a speaker who should've stopped 20 minutes ago. Be informative but succinct.

Let your passions fly. Charismatic people usually have one thing in common: passion. They have deeply held values, and it's evident when they speak. There's a magnetism that envelops passionate people-even if you disagree with them. Making a good appearance, monitoring your silent cues, speaking well-those are all great. "But," says Alessandra, "you still need a sense of caring. In fact, having a powerful, infectious vision will go a long way toward compensating for a lack of some other charismatic virtues."

Learning and applying these principles is vital, according to Alessandra, because ultimately, "the truly charismatic person strives to create feelings of collaboration and equality." In short, charisma is simply about connecting with other people.

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