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The Advice Goddess: November 2018
Thursday, 01 November 2018 23:21
Special to the Daily Planet

Q: My friends tease me, saying that Im such an obnoxious jerk, but amazingly, everybody seems to love me. Somebody said its because I have charisma like a rock star/movie star quality. Honestly, I dont think that highly of myself. Im interesting-looking, outgoing, funny, and relatively talented in what I do. What is charisma exactly, and can people create it?

Weirdly Beloved Woman

A: There are certain people throughout history that you just know had charisma. Moses, for example: Hey, fellow Jews, just follow right behind me as I take a jog into the sea.

Charisma is the Pied Piper of personality traits a mix of personal magnetism, likability and powerful presence that leads people to flock to and follow a person who has it. This can have creepy and even deadly results when the charismatic person is a cult leader, but evolutionary researchers Allen Grabo and Mark van Vugt believe that charisma evolved to be a cooperation booster. Their research suggests it is a credible signal of a persons ability to inspire a group of people to unite behind him or her so they can collectively solve some problem that would stump them individually.

Looks are an element of charisma. Being tall, good-looking, and physically stronger than your peers, as well as appearing healthy, are correlated with charisma, note Grabo and van Vugt. That said, though its helpful to be a ringer for Gisele Bundchen, you can more closely resemble a hamburger bun in a bikini and still be mad charismatic. Accordingly, the researchers observe that anecdotal evidence suggests that having particularly unique features such as Abraham Lincolns elongated face or Rasputins piercing eyes may amp up charisma as a result of their attention-grabbing ability.

The good news for anyone who lacks height, hots, or eyes that burn a hole in people -- is that how a person acts appears to be the main driver of charisma. And though some people are naturally (that is, genetically) equipped to be more charismatic through their set of personality traits, there are charismatic behaviors that anybody can learn and practice (or, perhaps in your case, engage in more often).

 The behaviors that drive charisma are those that reflect a combination of high power and high warmth, explains business coach Olivia Fox Cabane in her research-based book The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism.

 Most people probably believe that charisma comes simply out of speaking powerfully Martin Luther King-ing it rather than mumbling their message. Actually, listening powerfully -- tapping into how somebodys feeling, engaging with it emotionally, and empathizing is essential to having charisma. Connecting in this way drives what people experience as warmth, which Cabane sums up as goodwill the sense that another person cares about them and their well-being.

 And sorry, but you cant just fake the look of someone whos listening (nod, nod, nod, eye contact, eye contact) while youre all up in your to-do list or formulating the brilliant thing youre going to say next. Youll think youre hiding your inattentiveness, but little bits of your body language will always sell you out.

 Charismatic body language comes out of the antithesis of nervousness being comfortable in your skin, having a sort of high-powered calm. Thats reflected in slower speech (rather than squirrel-like chit-chattering), the confidence to take pauses while speaking, and breathing from your diaphragm instead of taking shallow gulps of air. (For the basics on speaking more powerfully, read speech therapist and pathologist Morton Coopers Change Your Voice, Change Your Life.)

 Slower, expansive body movements are another mark of the charismatic, in contrast with the herky-jerkyness of the perpetually uneasy those who always seem on the verge of making a run for it. However, theres a caveat to all of this walking and talking advice: If youre insecure and self-loathing, you cant just plaster some alpha-girl body language on top of that. Not credibly, anyway. Youve got to put in the work to fix your foundation. (See my science-help book, Unf*ckology: A Field Guide to Living with Guts and Confidence.)

 Finally, consider that it takes a strong person to be open about their weaknesses and failures. Counterintuitive, I know. But people dont relate to greatness. They relate to other people who show how human and imperfect they are. Cabane explains that drawing attention to your vulnerabilities ultimately enhances your power. 

In other words, instead of always working hard to look good, youll amp up your charisma by making intermittent efforts to look bad -- like by confessing, Im socially awkward. Always have been. Im really bad at leaving conversations at parties to the point where I wish a meteorite would crash through the ceiling so I could make my escape.


Jenny from the flock

 I hit it off with this guy I met on Weve been dating for a month and slept together twice. He said hed delete his Match profile because things were going so well, so I deleted mine. Recently, a mutual friend told me hed just gone on Tinder. Im super upset, and though we didnt have the exclusivity talk, it seemed implied.


Okay, so it seems he didnt quite get around to mailing out the formal invitations to the funeral for his freedom.

 Now, the guy may be an out-and-out lying cad, cooing commitment-y things to you that he never intended to follow through on. However, its also possible that he was legit enthusiastic in that moment when he offered to delete Match confusing the buzzy high of a love thing thats brand-new with a love thing thats really right.

 Neuroscientist Wolfram Schultz discovered that things that are new to us people, relationships, pleasure-producing substances activate our brains reward circuitry and its chemical messenger boy, dopamine, in a way things were used to do not. (That very first bite of chocolate cake is always the tastiest, most chocogasmic.)

 In fact, Schultzs research suggests that novel rewards may be two to three times more dopamine-elevating than delishy stuff weve previously experienced. Basically, once weve tried something, even if we really, really enjoyed it the first time (hot diggity!), it becomes less motivating to us (kinda lukewarm diggity).

 This motivational downshift comes out of how dopamine neurons are, in a sense, fortuneteller cells; they predict how rewarding things or situations will be. Dopamine, contrary to what countless books and articles contend, is not a pleasure chemical. It does not generate a heroin rush-type euphoria. Its stimulating. It drives wanting and seeking, motivating us to explore new stuff that might enhance our ability to pass on our genes.

 After dopamine calculates the difference between the initial high a thing gave us when it was new and its current level of more meh rewardingness, it can push us to go out and chase the initial high seek some new provider, and then another and another: Sure, I could have a stable adult relationship or I could continue my groundbreaking research into The Tramp Stamps Of Tinder.

 This is not an excuse for this guys lack of forthcomingness but a possible explanation for why he said hed delete Match but then signed right up for Tinder. Its also possible the powerful human fear of regret is at play. Going exclusive with you would mean waving bye-bye to the rest of womankind. Its possible that he and his penis feel the need for a second opinion.

 The problem from your end is that your wanting to go exclusive with him is the dating version of the impulse purchase. A month in, you dont have enough information to judge his character, see whether hes boyfriend-grade, and see whether theres, uh, brand loyalty. 

You should be just starting to see who he is and reserving judgment much as youd like to believe that hes a wild dude seeking domestication, kind of like a lion knocking on the door of the zoo: Got any vacancies, chief?

(c.) 2018, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ( Weekly radio show:



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