The better command you have over the people you communicate with, the easier it is for you to function with the least amount of friction. Think about it. Friction in your life causes stress. The easier things are for you, the better things are for you. It’s about things being easy. Make things easier, life is better.
There are lots of areas in your life where you can reduce the friction. Think of your communication as a way of building a team around you who wants to help support you. There’s the saying, you can get more flies with honey than with vinegar? This is so true. If you can get people to listen to you, you have influence. Influence makes things happen with less friction. Influence comes from respect and admiration.
How do you get someone who doesn’t know you very well to respect or admire you? You let them leave your presence feeling good about themselves.
Here is how better communication can help you. If you can command the attention of others you can:
- Get more things done
- Have less resistance when you make a request
- Have people wanting to help you or
- Have less conflict when you are around
We can always use less conflict.
It all boils down to nurturing relationships, even if they are superficial relationships. This concept can apply to work, your marriage, your relationship with your kids and your friendships.
Have you ever known someone who wasn’t particularly good at his or her job, but still managed to thrive in the company? It could be that your co-worker thrived because she mastered the art of talking so others will listen.
What makes the difference? Is it your voice? Is it your vocabulary?
It’s actually a number of things, but let’s focus on charisma and body language.
Charisma is difficult to define; Merriam Webster defines charisma as a special magnetic charm or appeal. Charm is then defined as a trait that fascinates, allures, or delights.
Even though the definition is a bit abstract, it’s a good place to start.
You do not have to be a comedian or super extroverted to be charismatic. Any personality can be charismatic. People who are charismatic make other people feel good about themselves.
3 Tips for more charisma
1. Smile when you talk. Emotions are contagious, so let people catch something positive from you. People treat you differently when you smile.
Even if you don’t feel like smiling, do it anyway! Smiling when you don’t feel like it can lighten your mood and make you feel better. When you feel better, others feel better when they’re around you.
2. Be curious or interested in others. Dale Carnegie was a self-improvement writer. He said “you could make more friends in two months by being interested in others than you can in two years of trying to get people interested in you.”
A way to find out something interesting about the person is to ask questions. I’ve mentioned before that people like talking about themselves. That’s not an absolute. There are those who are very private and don’t like to disclose much about themselves. They usually want to keep the conversation on something neutral.
You can tell this is the case when you ask questions and get vague or short answers with little detail. The person may even seem evasive when it comes to answering questions. It may be tempting to want to push them for details but don’t do this. These people need to feel comfortable with you before they open up about themselves. Too many questions can feel intrusive and therefore off-putting. If you want to have small talk with this person, you need to talk about yourself or something neutral like the event you are attending at the office or whatever common ground the two of you may have.
Whatever you talk about, be sure to smile and be warm and engaging as this can make the person feel as though you are enjoying their company.
Giving a person the sense that you are enjoying their company is very valuable in building rapport. People who are guarded with how much they reveal usually know they are not good with people. They may have become accustomed to people responding to their guardedness by being intrusive and pressing them for answers or being judgmental that the person can’t carry a conversation. So if you come along and carry the conversation in a warm and accepting way, you stand out as different for most people.
This is an example of charisma. You attract people to you because of the way you make them feel.
People are attracted to those that are open and non-judgemental because no one wants to be judged. This doesn’t mean you should not have an opinion. But you can express your opinion and simultaneously validate the other person’s opposing opinion. You can do this in such a way that the person doesn’t feel judged simply because you disagree with them. This will make you stand out from others and appear authentic and trustworthy.
3. Encourage and support others. People don’t want criticism; they crave support and affirmation.
Let’s look at an example
Suppose someone is telling you about their idea.
Suppose you think it’s a bad idea and you really can’t find anything positive to say about it. In fact, you can think of several ways to improve their idea. What do you say?
First think – is this person asking you for a critique? Did they preface what they said with – “please give me some feedback on this and let me know how I can improve it?”
If they didn’t and you have nothing to do with this project or idea, chances are nothing you say will change what they do. She is telling you about something of which she is very proud and she is looking for affirmation. Even if you are not interested in her idea, find something positive to say. You could say – “boy that sounds like it’s a lot of work.” She may say – “It is. I spent two months getting it together.”
Instead of saying – “Well that was a two months wasted.” You could say “Good for you for being so dedicated to this.”
You see what you are doing? You’re complimenting the person for her effort and dedication. It says nothing about whether or not you like what she’s doing.
Suppose she directly asks – “Do you think it’s a good idea?” You could say “It’s hard for me to say because I’m not good at xxxx or I don’t normally watch xxx.” What you are doing here is making your shortcomings or lack of exposure to her thing the reason you can’t really appreciate what she’s done. That’s not a judgment. You’re saying – “Gee, I’m so stupid when it comes to this stuff, I can’t even give you a relevant opinion. My opinion is worthless in this scenario”.
That’s the template here. If you don’t like someone’s idea or craft or product, don’t give them negative feedback – just disqualify yourself from being able to give an opinion that matters because you are disconnected from their thing.
This doesn’t have to be difficult or disingenuous. What you are doing is changing the focus of your feedback. Of course, if the person comes to you for an objective review, you should tell them how they can improve, but that’s usually not the case when people are engaged in small talk. They are not wanting you to fix them.
Let’s look at another example
Jane and I are talking and she tells me her son plays soccer and she is the snack mom. That is, she is responsible for bringing the snacks to the game. She tells me she really wants the kids to have a healthy snack and she’s really into lowering her child’s sugar intake. She then decides to bring roasted flax seed bars and fresh bananas.
I don’t think this will go over well with your average family who is not into health food. Instead of saying “that does not sound appetizing, no one is going to want that,” I could say “boy that really sounds healthy, do your kids enjoy it?” I’ve given her the complement she’s looking for. She wants validation that she’s doing the right thing for the sake of people’s health. By asking her about her kids, I get a chance to get some real information on whether or not anyone has eaten this and enjoyed it, and she feels more at ease to talk about her idea. At this point, she may not want to hear anymore of my opinion.
However, if she really wants my opinion, she’ll ask again. If she goes on about her kid’s soccer and other things, she really didn’t want constructive feedback from me, she just wanted affirmation that she’s a good parent for caring about people’s health and she plans to take those snacks no matter what I say. In this case, if I criticize her, she’ll just walk away feeling insulted.
So I deflected the issue with a question. If she asks a second time, then I know she really wants to know my opinion and she may take my opinion into consideration. In this case I can say “it sounds really healthy” (first repeating the compliment), “but I’m not sure kids who are used to eating junk food at these games will want to eat it. So if you don’t care if they eat it and you just want to introduce them to something healthy, go for it.”
Notice I first couched the criticism with something positive, then I suggested that someone else (not me, but the kids) may not like it. I never took a stand on whether or not I want to eat roasted flax seed bars.
I’m not being deceptive with her. She is not asking me if I like flax seed bars. And whether or not I like them has no bearing on whether or not she should take them to the game. Her question is whether I think it will be a hit with the kids and if she should take them. So if I tell her I think the bars would be repulsive, that is totally unconstructive criticism.
You don’t need to be trained to know what people are really asking in order to respond to them in a positive way. Just know that most people want to be validated in some way. They want to be lifted up and not torn down. Make it a practice to first ask yourself – “What is something positive about what this person just said?” Then give them your positive observation.
The second, before you give an opposing view point or criticism, think about how it will be used. How much does your negative opinion matter? Will it change the course of action? If not, leave it out. It will be unnecessary noise.
Being charismatic is largely about making other people feel good when they’re around you. This is accomplished by how you treat them and by being socially genuine and free with how you express yourself. By being free and uninhibited, you encourage others around you to be the same.
You can learn to be charismatic. It’s not about developing qualities you don’t have – you simply need to feel more self-assured about qualities you already have.
Let’s look at body language. How you carry yourself has a huge impact on how others perceive you.
Much of our communication is non-verbal. Others make judgments and draw conclusions about you before you ever speak. Since so much of your communication is not based on the words you choose, it makes sense to give some attention to your body language.
The goal of your body language should be to convey that you are important and open, interesting and interested.
Here are 5 ways to make that happen:
1. Fill the space around you. Avoid acting small. Open your shoulders and sit up straight. If you’re sitting at table, spread out a little bit; don’t look as if you’re trying not to get in anyone’s way.
Important people take the space they require and then other people fill in around them.
Keep your shoulders relaxed. It’s easy to have tense shoulders and not notice it yourself. Let your shoulders relax and fall down. People with authority are more relaxed in situations than others. Be relaxed, or at least look like you are relaxed.
Stand and sit straight. When you slouch, you’re minimizing your presence. Be bold, big, and straight.
2. Lean towards whomever you’re speaking to. You show interest in the other person by leaning in slightly. It shows that you’re paying attention. Others appreciate this and are more likely to listen to you in return.
Keep consistent eye contact with the person with whom you’re talking. Resist the urge to scan the room to make sure you don’t miss anyone. Wandering eyes give the message that you’re not listening.
Have you ever been at a function where you were talking to someone who is looking around and saying hello to other people even when she is the one who is talking? It’s as if everything and everyone else is more important than you. It can make you feel as though she is just making her rounds and is in a hurry to get to the next person.
This doesn’t leave a lasting positive impression. Instead maintain eye contact with the person and try to make them feel as though they are the only person in the room.
3. No fidgeting. Don’t touch your face, rub your nose, play with your earrings, etc. This gives the impression that you are insecure, disorganized, nervous, bored or impatient. Whichever of these messages, it doesn’t instill confidence.
4. Slow down. Consider someone like James Bond. He moves slowly but purposefully. Confident and commanding personalities tend to have slower motions. Nervous people rush around.
If you rush down the hall or yank a door open, how much time does it really save you? Maybe you get an extra 20-30 seconds? Will an extra minute of time make enough difference in your life to warrant the rush?
5. Practice mirroring. This is something that can happen naturally when two people who are talking are in sync with each other. When you mirror someone, both of your actions mimic one another. For example, you both may have your legs crossed or your heads tilted.
You can also intentionally mirror someone’s movements to make him or her feel more at ease with you.
What you do is mimic the other person’s posture and mannerisms. If her hand is in her lap, put your hand in your lap. If she moves her hand when she speaks, do the same thing. But you need to allow a delay. You don’t want this to look unnatural like a clown mime. Instead, you want to wait a few seconds then assume a similar posture.
If you do it in excess, it looks weird and is distracting. But it is something you can try for a couple of movements just to see how it affects the interaction.
Body language can have a dramatic effect on your ability to get others to listen to you. Take a couple of these tips and put them into practice. Try it for a couple of weeks. Then after that becomes natural try a few more tips.
After you tweak your body language and improve your charisma, take notice of whether or not you have less friction in your interactions with others and how much you are able to command the attention of others.
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