Almost all leaders have a few generic characteristics.
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We all know them when we see them but are unaware of what it is about certain people that makes others want to be around them. Fortunately we are all born the same: ugly and crying. No one is born with a stamp on their head that says "charisma". Charisma is developed, it is learned, and yes it can be taught.
There are a bunch of characteristics of charismatic people and I will touch on some of the more noticeable characteristics as well as some ways to develop some of these traits for yourself if you are in the pursuit of influence. Remember though that charisma has a lot to do with personality, and contrary to popular belief you can change your personality if you choose to. So here are some things you can do to start developing that elusive charismatic personality.
Most people who have a sunny disposition and are always smiling always seem to attract people. A smile says "I'm happy", "I'm friendly", and more importantly "I'm confident".
The next time you see someone just flash them a big smile showing them your bright sparking teeth and watch their response. You'll be amazed at the smile you get instantly returned to you.
This is a reflex response in people. They can't help but respond to you in kind when you smile. A smile brightens up their day and it also brightens up yours. Remember it takes many more muscles to frown than it does to smile so start smiling today and start developing that endearing personality.
Listen more than you talk
This is usually the toughest skill to develop. Most people are not good listeners and for good reason. We act on rational self-interest and are by nature very self-centered. So it is no wonder that the few people who are able to master the skill of listening to others talk are always liked more by everyone.
Listening to someone shows you respect what they are saying and also shows that you think they have something worth listening to. This makes them feel better about themselves and in return they identify that feeling with you from then on.
Show genuine interest in other people
People are all primarily interested in talking about one thing: themselves. Selfish yes, but if you can remember this in your daily interactions with people you will be better off for it. Charisma has everything to do with asking the right questions and not having all the right answers.
Most people spend most of their time around people simply trying to impress them. Your goal should be to make everyone around you feel like they are your superior by asking questions and then listening. Learn good questions to ask people that endear them to you. Examples of such questions include: "what's important to you", "who has had the most influence in your life and why", "what do you think about …", etc.
Maintain eye contact
This is probably the most important one. The eyes are the window to the soul is a famous saying, so it is no wonder that a person who can maintain eye contact with you will leave a lasting impression.
Maintaining steady eye contact is a sign of a healthy self-image. A person who can look you directly in the eye and continue conversation has nothing to hide and is offering you nothing adulterated. If this is hard for you, start practicing maintaining eye contact with your friends first.
You can later move to making and maintaining eye contact with people you do not know very well that you may meet at networking events or engagements where that are a lot of people. No matter what, never break eye contact. It is the simplest way to communicate confidence.
Learn to make people laugh
Some people are naturally funny, and for some of you very serious types this might be the biggest challenge you will ever face. If you can develop the skill of making people laugh you will be more than half way to developing charisma.
Laughter relaxes people, and when people are relaxed they are happier. Anyone who can make relieve some of their stress by making them laugh will always leave a lasting impression. So start a journal of jokes, practice them and fit them into your own personality and try them out. You might sound silly at first but soon you will be known for being able to just crack people up at will.