3 Elements of Charisma

Presence

Believe it or not, toddlers have charisma. These little creatures, wide-eyed and curious, can capture the attention of a roomful of adults without saying a word. Do you remember the last time one of these little guys captivated you? Did you wonder why what was? Obviously, they’re super cute, but a lot of it has to do with presence. Toddlers are often fully in the moment, and there’s something magnetic about anyone who’s giving 100 percent of their attention and effort to what’s happening here and now.

Think of Michael Jordan’s presence during playoff games as his Chicago Bulls won consecutive NBA titles from 1991 through 1993. His focus on each game and every play was so contagious that his teammates were able to elevate their games as well. Millions wanted to see the Bulls win. It probably explains why Jordan’s line of athletic clothing continues to sell well for Nike almost 20 years later. Jordan is far from a toddler, but the similarity is his fully engaged presence.

We can quickly tell when someone is in the moment, and when they’re thinking about other things. Adults are frequently in a state of continuous partial attention. We aren’t fully engaged with our employees or co-workers, our children or spouses, or the grocery clerk.

To master the first part of charisma, then, you must practice being present.

There are many practices to help you become more present and engaged in each moment. One is to focus on your breathing. Wherever you are, feel the air entering through your nose and filtering into your lungs. Now attend to the feeling as you exhale. As the last bit of air leaves your lungs, note the sensation of your muscles relaxing all the way down to your fingers and toes.

Another practice to become more present is to make eye contact with those you talk to. We often think we’re looking our conversational partner in the eyes when really we’re looking at them in the “general eye area.” Take the time to note the color of their eyes. Are they deep brown or green-brown? Don’t give a hard stare, of course—that would be creepy. But warm, friendly eye contact lets your partner know you are present and interested in what they have to say.

In many cases, our body language reveals an apparent lack of interest. Our shoulders may be turned away, or we may be distracted by a stream of texts. This instantly tells the other person we aren’t fully present. So, square up your body and shoulders to those you are conversing with, and look them directly in the eyes.

You don’t have to be fully present in each and every moment—that’s not realistic (or possible). But when you can, and when it’s important, make the most of your time with others, and let them know you’re present.