You know who you are.
When you stand up to speak in a meeting, people listen. When you say jump, people jump. You’re magnetic. You’ve got energy. Panache. Power. In a word, you’re charismatic.
Or you will be, after you finish reading this column.
Consider, if you will, my sad story. No one ever paid attention to me, and they certainly didn’t jump when I said jump, unless it was to jump on my head. But then, in my loser loneliness, I stumbled upon an article by Jeff Haden on Inc.com. The title was, “10 Habits of Remarkably Charismatic People,” and let me tell you, it changed my life.
Since I am new to charisma, I’ll let Mr. Haden describe what we are trying to achieve for you. “Some people instantly make us feel important. Some people instantly make us feel special. Some people light up a room just by walking in.”
Let’s be honest here, Haden is not describing you. When you walk into a room, it not only doesn’t light up. It feels like the entire North American power grid has gone down. (On the positive side, you do make people feel important and special, but that’s only in comparison to your sorry self.)
Fortunately, there is hope for people who need a charisma transplant. Adopt a few of the 10 habits Jeff Haden describes, and you too can be charismatic.
To start with Habit No. 1, remarkably charismatic people “listen way more than they talk.” The idea here is to make the other person feel important. That’s why you “maintain eye contact. Frown. Nod. Respond — not so much verbally, but nonverbally.”
That should be easy, since you can not only nod, but also nod off. Falling asleep in the middle of a colleague’s frantic tale of workplace woe may not seem responsive, but it could work. Who doesn’t respect a person who can fall asleep in the middle of a major meltdown?
Remarkably charismatic people also “put their stuff away.” Apparently, connecting with others becomes more difficult when you’re constantly texting and checking your Facebook page. That’s why, if your basic niceness has trapped you into listening to a co-worker’s endless problems, simply announce that you are super interested in their story, but first you just have to finish what you’re doing. “I’m going to put my stuff away,” you explain. “I’ll just finish binge-watching these 13 episodes of ‘Orange is the New Black.’ I’m almost halfway through episode two, so I should be ready to listen late tomorrow afternoon.”
Another charismatic attitude to model is to “shine the spotlight on others.” “No one receives enough praise,” Jeff Haden so astutely writes. “No one. Tell people they did well.”
This won’t be easy. There’s so little that goes right at your job, that if there’s ever any credit to take, you want to grab it — fast. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t give a co-worker praise for something that went badly wrong. “Great work, Tiffany,” you might say. “If you hadn’t completely messed up that big order, I never would have had the chance to jump in and save the day.”
If that isn’t charismatic, I don’t know what is.
Remarkably charismatic people are positive people. They “choose their words.” As Haden writes, “you don’t have to go to a meeting; you get to go meet with other people. You don’t have to create a presentation for a new client; you get to share cool stuff with other people.”
See the difference? Didn’t think you would. How’s this for an example: “The boss didn’t have to fire me; the boss jumped on the opportunity to cut out a malignant tumor in the otherwise healthy corporate corpus.”
Now that’s cool.
One of the most difficult habits to emulate will surely be the way charismatic people “don’t discuss the failings of others.” That’s right! No more gossip. No more hiring private detectives to dig up dirt on your co-workers. No more hiding cameras in the boss’ bathroom.
And how will you fill the endless gossip-free hours now available to you? Well, remarkably charismatic people “readily admit their failures.” That one habit should keep you busy until security comes to drag you out of your cubical and toss you onto the street.
It may seem like being summarily fired will not enhance your ability to dazzle others with your personality, but look on the bright side — you’ll be the most charismatic person in line at the unemployment office.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at firstname.lastname@example.org.