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5 Habits of Exceptionally Charismatic People

Can we bust a myth right now?

A common misconception is that highly charismatic people are perfect. That their charisma comes from their superior, skills, income or looks. But this is not the case at all!

Being charismatic is about perfectly embracing imperfections.

Wondering what on earth I am talking about? Let’s go to the science:

5 Habits of Exceptionally Charismatic People:

Habit #1: Embrace Imperfections

Psychologist Richard Wiseman conducted a study where two actresses sell a blender to mall goers. Actress one had a perfect presentation and produced a flawless smoothie to viewers. Actress two had a great presentation but “accidentally” forgot to tighten the lid and the smoothie splashed all over her.

Can you guess who sold more blenders and who was rated higher by audience members?

Actress #2, ‘the clumsy’ woman, was rated as more likeable. Wiseman found that her vulnerability humanized her and therefore increased her influence on the audience.

This vulnerability effect has been shown over and over again in the research. When we admit to weakness, others connect with us and see us as more likeable. So, I want you to embrace your imperfections. Don’t feel the need to be perfect, impressive or superior. Just be yourself!

Habit #2: Don’t Be A Conversational Narcissist

My uncle once told me, “You have two ears and one mouth so that should match the rate you speak and listen.” I have never forgotten those wise words. Charismatic people know how to listen and listen well. They maintain the 2:1 ratio of listening to speaking. The easiest way to speak less and listen more is to:

Ask tons of clarification questions.

Instead of staying on the surface at networking events, dig deeper by asking follow-up questions and for examples. Not only will you understand more about them, you also increase your connection. And remember, when you’re speaking, you aren’t learning. Need a little help in the conversation department? We have tons of conversation sparkers in our book Captivate!

Habit #3: Gush Don’t Gossip

There is a scientific principle called “Spontaneous Trait Transference“. This fascinating behavior shows that when you speak ill of someone else people can’t help but associate that trait to you. In other words, if you say someone is mean and shallow–the person listening can’t help but assign those traits to you as well. This finding shows us why our mommas might have been right when they told us not to gossip! Never, ever speak ill of others. If you want to talk about someone, try gushing. Pick someone who you adore and share all of their awesome qualities. I try very hard to practice gushing, not gossiping and I have found that it is wonderful to speak genuinely about people you respect and admire.

  • One way I do this is when I am introducing two people who might not know each other, I not only say, “Aaron meet Jess, Jess meet Aaron.” But then I go on to explain a bit about what they do and why they rock.
  • Something like this: “Aaron meet Jess, she is a fantastic pastry chef at a local bakery. She is too shy to admit it but her secret scone recipe is to die for. And Jess, you have to meet Aaron. Aaron is a tech entrepreneur working on an amazing company that is using 3D printers to create car parts. We better watch out because in the next few years he will probably be on the cover of Time magazine!”
  • In this way, I get to talk about two people I genuinely respect and admire, share their stories and put them at ease–they can’t brag about themselves, but I can!

Habit #4: Hand Power

In one of our citizen science experiments, we analyzed thousands of hours of TED talks looking for patterns. We found that the most popular TED talks had distinct nonverbal patterns. One thing we saw was that the best TED talkers used their hands to explain their words. The least viewed TED talks used an average of 272 hand gestures but the most viewed TED talks used 465 gestures! Crazy right? Why? Your hands are your trust indicators. The most charismatic speakers not only keep them visible but use them to emphasize their words. See the full results of the TED experiment here or watch below:

Habit #5: Deep Gazing

Studies have found that people who deep gaze–by noticing eye color or blink rate have a much stronger connection. When you are with someone:

  • Put all of your stuff away–don’t hold your phone in your hand, don’t leave it on the table, turn the buzzer off.
  • Notice their eye color.

Want to dig a little deeper into the Science of Charisma? Check out our latest book Captivate!

Book Descriptioncaptivate, captivate book, vanessa van edwards

Do you wish you could decode people? Do you want a formula for charisma? Do you want to know exactly what to say to your boss, your date or your networking partner? You need to know how people work.

As a human behavior investigator, Vanessa Van Edwards studies the hidden forces that drive our behavior patterns in her lab—and she’s cracked the code. In Captivate she shares a wealth of valuable shortcuts, systems and behavior hacks for taking charge of their interactions at work, at home, and in any social situation. These aren’t the people skills you learned in school. This is the first comprehensive, science backed, real life manual on human behavior and a completely new approach to building connections.

buy captivate on amazon

All Rights Reserved + COPYRIGHT 2014 Science of People, LLC

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Vanessa Van Edwards is a national best selling author & lead investigator at her human behavior research lab, Science of People. Her groundbreaking book, Captivate: Use Science to Succeed with People was chosen by Apple as one of the most anticipated books of 2017. She writes a monthly Science of Success column for Entrepreneur Magazine and the Huffington Post. As a professional people watcher her unique work has been featured in CNN, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, Inc, Business Insider and more. Vanessa leads innovative soft skills trainings for Fortune 500 companies including Google, Dove, Facebook, Intel, MillerCoors and American Express.


  1. Nick Andre Padilla

    Vanessa, I do not always agree with your conclusions, but you have such a superlative way of presenting your ideas that even when I disagree with your piece, I always love your intent. Always. Thank you!

    1. Danielle McRae

      Hi Nick, thank you for your comment. We love healthy debate here, so we would love to hear your thoughts on this! -Danielle and the Science of People Team

  2. alice meade

    In the video, it says use your toes and torso to show you are engaged. That is the exact opposite of what we learned in the Body Language video where it said that people sitting across the table from one another are more likely to see each other as enemies/competitors. It said you should also not stand across from one another (facing each other) but instead stand at 90 degree angles from one another.

    1. Danielle McRae

      Hi Alice, thank you for your comment. When sitting across from someone at a table, it is recommend to sit next to each other or on an angle because the table acts as a blocking mechanism. Blocking inherently makes us question what the other person is hiding. When standing, there is no blockade or table (typically). You can stand across from or next to the person you are speaking to. Most importantly, however, is where your torso and toes are facing. Hopefully this clarifies the issue for you! -Danielle and the Science of People Team

  3. Aaron

    I just went to a Tony Robbins event and in terms of hand power he had a lot…hahaha
    Its fun being with charismatic strong people using such powerful body language. I have also started using these points here a lot more while being out and with people.
    The eye gazing got a little intense and people started telling me that they felt weird. I just watched a video of yours the other day that said no more then about 70-80 percent eye contact if I remember right. It has made a huge difference just over the past few weeks.

    Love your posts!
    Thanks Vanessa!

  4. Joshua

    Great discussion in here. Excellent people skills are irreplaceable. Awesome research! Subscribed. (^^o)

  5. Robby Smith

    I love the embrace imperfections and be vulnerable. Be truthful in who you are, people will be able to tell when someone is not genuine.

  6. sharath999

    I Love You Very Very Much Vanessa, You are My Favorite !
    I Love You Madly Vanessa !
    As far as I know , there is no one on the Internet who teaches Body Language with as much
    Passion, Care, Curiosity and Love as You Do !
    Wow , Vanessa, Its Been a Great Pleasure See You Express
    Yourself in Such a Beautiful Way ! You are a Very Beautiful
    Woman Vanessa who inspires everyone without any inhibitions !
    I Love Your Exposure Vanessa with such a child like innocence
    without any inhibitions before all audience, small, big or Media !
    I Love You Vanessa for your Generosity in Terms of Freely
    Opening up and Sharing So Many Body Language Secrets Before Us,
    Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Sharath Chandra

    1. Danielle McRae

      Hi Sharath, thank you for your kind words. Vanessa and I both are so happy to have you as part of the Science of People community!

      Danielle | Science of People Team

  7. Axel Dahl

    About habit number 1, I’m just curious as to what the results would be if the study was conducted with men instead of women, due to the different social perceptions forced on each gender.

  8. Dan

    Have you ever considered making a podcast? That idea just popped in my head when I saw the audio on top of the article and I wanted to share it, since I found it not bad 🙂

    And the article was awesome! I like the quote of your uncle “You have two ears and one mouth so that should match the rate you speak and listen.” and also the idea about “deep gazing” and noticing someone eye color

  9. Dan

    *someone’s eye color. I am gonna try it and maybe implement it to my real life. Thanks for sharing that idea 🙂

  10. Ken Cowie .

    Hi Vanessa.
    I often watch your videos I think they are very informative and entertaining. I have already learnt much about understanding body language. And use it when working with people every day..

    I look forward to learning more about your skill .
    I would like to know more about “micro body language ”
    Many thanks ….Ken Cowie.

  11. Karla

    I love the idea about having more in depth introductions that reveals more about the other person rather than just their name! I am going to try this!

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