How to be charismatic, according to science
From working on your voice to putting your iPhone down...
Charisma makes a difference. It doesn't just make us like people more — charismatic leaders bring out our best and make us do better work.
Research shows that those following charismatic leaders perform better, experience their work as more meaningful, and have more trust in their leaders than those following effective but noncharismatic leaders.
As Wharton School business professor Robert House notes, charismatic leaders "cause followers to become highly committed to the leader's mission, to make significant personal sacrifices, and to perform above and beyond the call of duty." [The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism]
So what are five things you should keep in mind if you want to be more charismatic?
"Research that looked at U.S. presidential candidates between 1960 and 2000 found that in all eight elections, the candidate with the lower voice had won the popular vote."
So maybe you don't sound like Barry White. How can you improve the way you speak?
Speak slowly. Visualize the contrast between a nervous, squeaky teenager speaking at high speed and the slow, emphatic tone of a judge delivering a verdict.
Pause. People who broadcast confidence often pause while speaking. They will pause for a second or two between sentences or even in the middle of a sentence. This conveys the feeling that they're so confident in their power, they trust that people won't interrupt.
Drop intonation. You know how a voice rises at the end of a question? Just reread the last sentence and hear your voice go up at the end. Now imagine an assertion: a judge saying "This case is closed." Feel how the intonation of the word closed drops. Lowering the intonation of your voice at the end of a sentence broadcasts power. When you want to sound superconfident, you can even lower your intonation midsentence.
Check your breathing. Make sure you're breathing deeply into your belly and inhale and exhale through your nose rather than your mouth. Breathing through your mouth can make you sound breathless and anxious.
Want your voice to to convey more warmth? Just smile:
There's only one thing you need to do in order to project more warmth in your voice: smile. Smiling affects how we speak to such an extent that listeners in one study could identify sixteen different kinds of smiles based on sound alone. This is why it's worth smiling even when on the phone.
Use of imagery increases charisma:
The purpose of this research was to investigate the effects of imagery in a leader's speech on listeners' perceptions of the leader's charisma. A former US president's inaugural address was rewritten to create low and high imagery versions, and audio recordings of the two speeches were made. Participants were randomly assigned to high or low speech imagery conditions. After listening to the speech, they provided ratings on various summary leadership measures. The high imagery speech resulted in higher ratings of charisma than the low imagery speech. This effect was partially mediated by state positive affect (having controlled for trait affect levels). High imagery led to increased charisma ratings partially through increasing listeners' state positive affect relative to their trait affect baseline level. ["Speech imagery and perceptions of charisma: The mediating role of positive affect," The Leadership Quarterly]
Research shows that consistency in tone is extremely persuasive. People who don't get shaken up and maintain a smooth approach have a natural advantage.
Stuttering, long pauses, pitch of the voice going up and down… none of these inspire confidence. Avoid emotional variability in how you carry yourself when presenting. A narrow tonal range conveys a high degree of control and certainty.
…[T]he consistency of one's emphasis and timing is an honest signal of a focused and smoothly functioning mind.
When we looked at salary negotiations with the sociometer, we found these same patterns. That is, the more consistent people were in their pattern of emphasis, the better they did in the salary negotiation. This was true for both the boss and the new employee-showing variability weakens your negotiation stance. We found the same to be true for business executives pitching business plans. The more consistent they were in emphasis and rhythm while giving their pitch, the more convincing they were to others. That was not the only benefit; people with greater consistency were also perceived as having better ideas and a better presentation style. [Honest Signals: How They Shape Our World]
4. Be careful with technology
Meet in person. Steven Johnson suggests that by stripping away the emotional information in faces and intonation, technology can hamper communication.
When we interact with other humans via communication channels that are stripped of facial expressions and gestures and laughter, we are unwittingly simulating the blank emotional radar of the mindblind… The lesson here is twofold. First, certain social settings — particularly those that involve virtual communication — may artificially dampen laughter that would otherwise be generated in a face-to-face encounter. Second, social interaction without laughter produces modified brain chemistry, which affects both your background impression of the exchange — its emotional color — and the resulting trace memories the exchange leaves in your head.Putting smiley faces into email to supplement the lack of verbal intonation helps convey when you're trying to be funny, but because the recipient of your message is still alone when reading it, she won't be likely to laugh out loud, and that suppressed laughter will make a difference. The memory will be happier — and consequently stronger — if she laughs. [Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life]
5. Know what the courses teach
A course that was successful in making managers more charismatic focused on these techniques:
- Framing through metaphor-stories and anecdotes
- Demonstrating moral conviction
- Sharing the sentiments of the collective
- Setting high expectations
- Communicating confidence
- Using rhetorical devices such as contrasts, lists, and rhetorical questions together with non-verbal tactics such as body gesture, facial expression, and animated voice tone. [Occupational Digest]
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