My father had amazing charisma, and he was a great story teller. I've probably learned some things but observing him, and I've recently become interested in why some people have *amazing* charisma, and whether this can be learned.
My own experience has taught me that the best way to connect with someone is -
- be interested in them, ask open questions, be truly interested in their responses, and give them 100% of your focus. When they are talking, really listen to them, don't think about what you will be saying next. If you are thinking about something else when they are talking to you, they will detect it. Pause before you speak, to show them that you are thinking about what they said before you speak.
- be high energy, confident, fun, vulnerable. Although, not every responds the same to high energy and confidence - some people will find those things to be too strong. And I'm curious to learn more about confidence (which most people follow) vs. vulnerability (which causes most people to trust you, but some people to see you as weak).
- use open body language, vary the volume and speed of your voice (so they see which things excite you). Often good listeners "mimic" the other person, but I think this is more of an attribute than a skill to try intentionally (which sounds creepy).
The two best listeners I ever met were Thich Nhat Hanh (books) and Bill Campbell (bio).
I went to a Thich Nhat Hanh event in Boston in 2002. At one point during the event, when the audience got to line up at the front of the room and ask questions, one woman told him that she lost her sister in the 9/11 attacks. It is hard to describe this, but the way he listened to her was one of the most powerful things I've ever seen in person. Through his body language, his eyes, and his voice- TNH showed her that he accepted her, he loved her, he valued her, he had compassion for her, and he was interested in her experience.
I got to work with Bill Campbell when I sold my startup to Intuit and then when I served as VP Technology. Each time I met with Bill, he left me with the impression that he came to work that day just to meet with me.
Here are some resources on charisma and related topics:
- How To Win Friends and Influence People from Dale Carnegie in 1937. I read this book decades ago, when I first became an engineering manager. It was very impactful to me then.
- How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships
- The Charisma Myth
- How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less.
- How Likable Leaders Seem More Effective, HBR October 2019
- It's Charisma, Stupid is a 2004 essay by Paul Graham where he claims that the more charismatic candidate is almost always the one that wins the American presidency.