The Charisma Myth: Summary & Notes

I vividly remember the first time I saw someone present at thought “I want to be able to do that.” The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane dispels the common belief that some are just born with it and the rest of us have to live with being unauthoritive trolls. It breaks down the components of what charisma is and provides concrete exercises to become charismatic.

First, we’re provided with 3 quick wins to become instantaneously more charismatic

  1. Lower the intonation of your voice at the end of your sentences
  2. Reduce how quickly and how frequently you nod
  3. Pause for two full seconds before you speak

The Charisma Myth

First of all we need to get the Charisma definition in place. Charisma is the combination of 1. Presence, 2. Power, 3. Warmth

First, don’t be uncharismatic

To achieve charisma get the internal state right, and the rest will follow. Be in the now and focus on what’s going on instead of zoning out
Start by removing obstacles, i.e. become aware of discomfort and remove each element on by one

  1. Destigmatize discomfort by understanding that everyone experiences it
  2. Neutralize the negativity attached to the experience by reminding yourself that the negative thoughts are not neccesarily accurate
  3. Rewrite reality by interpreting the situation a way that gives you a more charismatic state

Creating charismatic mental states

  • Do visualization exercises
  • Practice gratitude, goodwill and compassion to project warmth to other peple
  • Improve your body language (posture, facial expression)
  • Warm-up to events (avoid negative events leading up to a presentation)

Different Charisma Styles

The book identifies 4 primary charisma styles

  • Focus: Presence and good listening
  • Visionary: Bold vision with complete conviction; inspires people
  • Kindness: Warmth and acceptance (emotional connection)
  • Authority charisma: determined by body language, appearance, title and the reaction of others. Power and status are big influencers as well

Charismatic First Impressions

  • Mirror other people and find similarities
  • Keep spotlight on the other person and make them feel good about themselves

Speaking – and listening – with Charisma

  • Presence: listening well, not interrupting and pause before you speak
  • Warmth: create positive associations, avoiding negative associations and make other people feel valued and important
  • Power: speak concisely, use metaphors and providing high value
  • Focus on pitch, tone and tempo

Charismatic body language

  • Non-verbal warmth: Manage physical and personal space to make others comfortable
  • Mirror body language
  • Right kind of eye contact
  • Power: big gorilla body language and avoid unnecessary movements
  • Usual problems (stuff to avoid)
    • Excessive or rapid nodding
    • Excessive verbal reassurance (“Oh, I agree”)
    • Restlessness or fidgeting 
  • Break problems by: awareness of it


Presenting with Charisma

  • Craft message clearly and simply. Use vivid stories, metaphors and analogies and focus on relate able stuff for the audience
  • Choose clothing to create image but also to be comfortable
  • Practice extensively and weed out unnecessary sounds and motions
  • During speech: focus on audience rather than yourself, remember to pause and breathe
  • Use body language and intonation to express the power/warmth you want
  • Pause frequently and deliberately to show confidence and add drama

The Charismatic Life

  • Share credit, express praise for others and show vulnerability

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