Charisma is not what you think it is.  It’s not a God-given gift that you either have or you don’t.  It’s rather something you can learn, something you can turn on or off at will once you understand how it works. 

Charisma is focused emotion.  Most of us go through our days unfocused and distracted, thinking about all sorts of things, a little upset, or perhaps in a good mood, chuckling at something that happens, or a funny cartoon that someone sends us, worrying about an upcoming meeting, trying to remember something on the to-do list, vexed at the guy in the next cubicle who’s talking too loudly on the phone again, trying to figure out what to have for dinner, and on and on.  That mix of attitude is deeply uncharismatic.

Here’s why.  We humans have evolved to read each other’s emotions quickly and unconsciously, for basic questions like safe or unsafe, friend or foe, fighting or fleeing.  When we see the average mixed-emotion medium-temperature human walk by, we get a quick read and move on, because there’s nothing exciting there. 

On the other hand, when someone comes in the room with focused emotion – excitement, passion, energy, anger, joy – you name it – we instantly start paying attention.  The emotion draws us, unconsciously at first, and then consciously as we try to figure out what’s going on.  It’s a survival thing.   

The way to turn on your charisma is to focus your emotion, before you go into a meeting, or get up to give a speech, or even have an important conversation.  Make it a real emotion relevant to the situation.  Focusing takes some practice; you begin by remembering a time when you naturally felt that way, and recalling that experience as completely, using all 5 senses, as you can.  With that practice you’ll get better and better at turning it on and off.  And with that will come charisma. 

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