The Body Language of Charisma
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Let's face it, in business
dealings, charisma counts. A lot. And charisma is as much about
impressions and body language as it is about issues and substance. I've
seen many qualified people get passed over for promotion (or lose a
sale or fail an interview) simply because they couldn’t project an
Max Weber, the father of sociology,
first coined the term “charisma” to describe inspirational leaders.
Originally from the Greek kharisma, meaning favor or divine gift,
charisma has also been defined as “part confidence, part presence, and
part sex appeal.” But however we define it, we know it when we see it.
We call someone charismatic when they somehow compel us to embrace
their vision -- whether it's corporate, social, or political.
As a leadership communication
coach, I further define charisma as complete congruence between what
you say and how you look and sound when you say it.
Body language communicates your
emotions and motivations, likes and dislikes, interest and
disengagement. Whether you are interviewing for a job, pitching your
idea to a venture capitalist, or presenting a new business strategy to
the board of directors, you are the most charismatic and convincing
when what you are feeling internally is perfectly aligned with what
you’re verbally expressing. (At which point your body language
automatically becomes congruent with your words.) That’s why my
coaching sessions always begin with questions about your emotional
intent: What is the heart of the message you want to communicate? How
do you truly feel about it? How important is this to you? Why do you
think others should care?
Charismatic leaders utilize a wide
range of nonverbal warmth and likeability cues. They display genuine
smiles, maintain positive eye contact, use a variety of gestures,
orient their torsos toward those with whom they are engaging, touch
others during conversations, etc. And anyone can be coached to include
more of these positive signals (and to reduce unwanted, negative
signals) in their interactions.
But here’s something else I
discovered about charisma. Sometimes all you have to do to be truly
impressive is to get out of your own way.
I once worked with the head of a
research department who was preparing for a major business
presentation. One-on-one, this man was charming, smart, and had a great
sense of humor. In informal settings, his body language was congruent
and expressive. But he was also an introvert. Put him on stage in front
of an audience and he became a nonverbal disaster.
You may be in a similar situation.
When talking with friends, you use your hands and face to help describe
an event or object. You smile, frown, shrug your shoulders and make
broad illustrative gestures. Yet during important business
presentations, you become anxious or self-conscious. And, as a result,
your usually eloquent body language suffers.
If so, you may not need to work on
nonverbal techniques. Rather, like my client, you might be better off
learning to relax and to focus more on your audience than on yourself
-- in order to let your natural, sparkling personality and body
language “speak up.”
Most of all, we tend to follow
charismatic leaders because they are perceived as confident and upbeat.
And here you can see the power of the body/mind connection in action.
You already know that the way you
feel affects your body language. (If you are depressed, you tend to
round your shoulders, slump, and look down. If you are upbeat you tend
to smile and hold yourself erect). But did you know that the reverse is
also true? The way you hold and carry yourself, your gestures, your
movements and even your facial expressions affect your emotions by
sending messages back to your brain.
In several experiments, individuals
were asked to smile and were then shown pictures of various events. The
smiling participants reported that the pictures pleased them and even
made them feel elated. When asked to frown during the same kind of
experiment, subjects reported feelings of annoyance and anger.
Additional studies demonstrated that a smile is not only a consequence
of feeling happy or content, but also that putting on a smile can
induce physiological changes in body temperature, heart rate, and skin
resistance. Smiling can make you feel happier.
So the next time you want to be
seen as your most charismatic self, try these simple, but powerful
tips: Begin to align your verbal and nonverbal communication by
focusing on the emotional intent of your message. Then stand up
straight, pull your shoulders back and hold your head high. Just by
assuming this physical position, you will start to feel surer of
yourself. And if you add a smile you will affect your brain and
attitude even more positively. During the entire interaction, keep
sending nonverbal warmth and likeability cues.
You’ll be irresistible!
About the Author
Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.is an international
Keynote speaker on collaborative leadership and the impact of
language in the workplace.
coach to executives to improve their leadership presence and
Leadership blogger for Forbes and author of "The Silent Language of
Leaders: How Body Language Can Help - or Hurt - How You Lead.”
Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com Authors Google+
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2012-03-14 11:44:01 in Personal Articles