Let’s face it: we’d all love a more charismatic personality. Originally, charisma, derived from the Greek word Charis, referred to a ‘divinely conferred power or talent’ (!)

But the good news is that you don’t need to curry favor with the gods to make friends and influence people. Science says that charismatic personality traits can be learned. 

What Is A Charismatic Personality?

A charismatic personality can is someone who displays both social and leadership skills. They have warmth and competence that engages and persuades others. These behavioral traits can be learned, such as self-awareness, open body language, active listening, and treating each person you encounter with equal respect. 

Despite the stereotype, charisma is NOT merely a trait of celebrities or the bubbly extrovert cracking jokes as they charm people at parties. It doesn’t matter how conventionally attractive you are (or aren’t), how introverted or extroverted you are, or how many jokes you have up your sleeve. Charisma is a learnable skill!

Primarily, a charismatic personality can persuade others because they come across as trustworthy, friendly, and fully present. Charismatic people demonstrate warmth and competence by playing to their strengths in any social situation. And yes, believe it or not, we all have strengths and weaknesses! 

Knowing how to cultivate a more charismatic personality that connects and influences people requires 

  • Self-awareness 
  • A balance of warmth and competence 
  • Treating others as equals that are highly valued.

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What Traits Do Charismatic People Have? 

Charismatic personality traits include some key behavioral markers. Below are twelve traits of charismatic people.

1. Self-awareness 

Being self-aware enables people to play to their strengths and disguise their shortcomings. Self-awareness entails being aware of your inner experiences, such as thoughts and emotions, and how your presence and behavior affect other people. 

Self-awareness is required to be fully present and at ease in your skin. You can acquire self-awareness through practicing mindfulness.  But hey, don’t worry—you don’t need to become a meditation master to become more mindful! 

Mindfulness skills put you in the driving seat of your mind so that your center of awareness is here and now in any situation. This means you show up as fully present and attentive when communicating with others.

And who’s a better example than the Dalai Lama for self-awareness? Sure, he may not be “traditionally” charismatic. But he sure does know how to be aware at any given moment.

Cultivating greater self-awareness is the bedrock of all the other charismatic personality traits that follow. As your self-awareness grows, you become more familiar with the interpersonal skills you need to work on. You don’t have to become perfect either—that might turn people off. Research indicates that embracing your imperfections endears you to others. The trick is striking the right balance.

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2. Warmth

Warmth is a critical charismatic personality trait. Warm people are usually approachable, understanding, and caring. Optimism and enthusiasm also convey warmth. 

Think of the comedian and actress Betty White. She exudes natural friendliness and playfulness. Check out this video of her blooper reel where she laughs at her own mistakes:

While some people are naturally warm toward others, you can enhance your warmth most easily in situations where you feel relaxed, comfortable, and able to connect to others socially. Warmth inspires other people’s trust.

The latest research-backed book on body language, Cues: Master the Secret Language of Charismatic Communication mentions that people assess whether they can trust you during the first five minutes of an interaction. This means making the right impression is essential.

Action Step: Level up your charismatic warmth! Try this short ten-minute “loving-kindness” meditation to relax and generate compassion and a loving heart for yourself and others. This practice develops an “inner smile” that will make smiling at others more often an entirely natural process. Try it!

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3. Competence

A charismatic personality can also convey competence, a combination of power, capability, and intelligence. Competence is leadership ability.

Think of the authoritative aura of Steve Jobs, who conveys an air of no-nonsense competence. He’s a man that gets things done.

When others assess your leadership skills—for example, during a job interview, they evaluate your ability to do what you say you’re going to do. Conveying competence with less warmth can establish authority. Still, the right balance of warmth and competence is the foundation of charismatic leadership. 

A charismatic leader is persuasive and engaging because the right balance of warmth and competence conveys authenticity.

The good news is that there’s no need to “fake it ‘til you make it.” Faking it is revealed by subtle body language cues that turn people off, not on.  Examples include a clenched jaw, tightened neck, furrowed brow, or raised eyebrows. These are all signs of stress, according to Business Insider. Prolonged eye contact can also make people feel uncomfortable.

Warmth and competence create a great first impression and convey a magnetic personality.

Action Step: Level up your charismatic competence! Next time you have to make an all-important connection with somebody, such as a potential employer or your current boss, remember that preparation is everything! Have some questions ready that convey the assessment process is mutual. This brings self-respect, confidence, and competence. 

The Simpsons first impression matrix image
Source

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4. Relaxed and open body language

A charismatic personality typically displays relaxed and open body language. This inspires further trust and likeability, thus enhancing their charisma. Showing your hands and using your hands when talking engages people. According to Jacquelyn Smith, Careers Editor for Business Insider, people rate others as more trustworthy when they can see their hands.

A master at relaxed body language is Howard Stern. He’s so natural that his hands seem to have a life of their own:

Action Step: Level up your charismatic hand gestures! Pick out 5 new hand cues from this list and practice them in the mirror to boost your charisma: 60 Hand Gestures You Should Be Using and Their Meaning

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5. Socialize where they’re comfortable

A charismatic personality typically understands where they feel their best and the occasions and events where they prefer to meet people. It’s no good trying to network at a conference if you hate meetings.

Have a Social Game Plan. No athlete has to cover all the positions in a team. They play to their strengths. Try the bar or coffee shop after work if you prefer bars or coffee shops. In Captivate, these places are called your “thrive spaces” and social sweet spots.

Daniel Craig is an excellent example of an introvert who knows his social limits—he even prefers to stay home rather than socialize on many occasions! Check out the video here (timestamp 2:52):

Action Step: Level up your networking charisma! Pick 3 of these 18 networking tips and apply them in your social sweet spot at your next event.

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6. Active listeners

A charismatic personality engages people by paying attention to every word they say. Often, an active listener will make you feel like you’re the only person in the room, or at least the most important or special person while they’re with you.

Think of how Ellen DeGeneres draws her interviewees out by focusing her attention on her guests. The way she makes firm eye contact and inserts her own opinion when talking shows the guests she’s fully paying attention.

For example, check out this clip (timestamp 5:18). Instead of passively agreeing, Ellen actively listens and inserts her own opinion by disagreeing with Taylor Swift’s statement:

Action step: Increase your charisma by following these 9 tips through active listening.

  • Face the speaker and maintain relaxed eye contact. Check your posture and ensure you convey genuine interest. Try leaning in a little, maintain comfortable eye contact, and open body language (no crossed arms or legs). If you look away, don’t look down, which can seem sketchy.
  • Listen to the other person’s body language. Pay attention to facial expressions, tone of voice, and hand gestures. If the speaker seems defensive, keep your body language open and non-threatening.
  • Don’t interrupt. This is a golden rule. Interrupting somebody suggests a lack of respect and that you aren’t listening!
  • Listen without judging. Don’t assume you know what the person is going to say next. If you find yourself reacting emotionally to what you’re hearing, stay aware and let go of your judgment while the conversation unfolds.
  • Avoid planning what to say next. You can’t listen and prepare at the same time.
  • Show that you’re listening. Make sure that you show that you’re listening by responding with positive body language like smiling and nodding and affirming sounds like “uh-huh,” “yes,” “hmmm,” “I see”. Don’t look at the clock or your watch! Don’t fidget. Avoid checking your phone.
  • Don’t offer unasked advice. Lending a supportive ear can often be much more helpful than providing advice and opinions. Active listening gives people the space to find their solutions. If there is a solution that you’re burning to offer, check whether it’ll be well received by asking ‘can I make a suggestion?” first.
  • Ask questions to check you’ve understood. Checking you’ve understood somebody correctly makes a person feel valued and heard. It also helps you stay focused. Try checking in by asking things like “Did you mean x…” and drawing somebody out with open-ended questions like “How did that make you feel?”
  • Reflect and summarise. Reflecting on a summary of what you’ve heard shows you’ve been listening and helps to counter any misunderstanding. You can try saying, “So, what I think you’re saying is [this], is that right?” or “It sounds like your saying….”

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7. Playful 

A charismatic personality often speaks in a playful way to overcome others’ reservations and diffuse tension. The relief that active communication brings to all those involved in uncomfortable situations endears people. 

Being funny is an essential social skill. 

Action step: Enhance your charisma by practicing the 7 crucial tips on how to be funny. Learn how Jennifer Lawrence responds to Ellen. Instead of saying “yes” to an obvious yes question, she responds with a playful “no.” Practice this in your following conversation for easy laughs, and learn more here: How to Be Funny

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8. Self-control

Notably, a critical charismatic personality trait is emotional self-regulation. A charismatic person has self-control. This means they are not reactive or impulsive but spontaneous and measured as circumstances require.

Take Dwayne Johnson, for example. Sure, he looks like a chiseled Greek sculpture, but he works hard for that. He works out 6 days a week and has a lean diet of egg whites and oatmeal.

Action step: Cultivate charismatic self-control by adding an area of discipline in your life. Exercise, daily cold showers, yoga class, caring for a garden, going to bed early, and limiting junk food are all ways to train your discipline muscle.

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9. Humble

A charismatic personality usually treats everybody the same regardless of their status. This is a remarkably likable trait. Treating the waiter who offers you a drink at an event the same way you talk to the host endears you to people right away- unless you insult them both, of course!

Action step: Dial-up your charisma by practicing being polite and warm to everybody equally. Smile and greet each person you meet the same way.

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10. Maintains good eye contact

Maintaining eye contact with people at the right intensity conveys trustworthiness, concern, and interest. It needs to be natural but direct.

Just watch how Leonardo DiCaprio plays his character in Gatsby. The way he makes direct eye contact is powerful and makes the main character feel important (timestamp 1:05):

Action step: Try noticing somebody’s eye color, but only do so fleetingly. Take care not to go overboard with the Dexter psychopathic stare. You don’t want to seem creepy!

Special Note: Keep in mind that some people don’t like eye contact, which can vary -depending on the culture. Reading a person’s body language is a great way to gauge their eye contact tolerance.

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11. Share and spread praise

The most charismatic leaders share and spread praise with their team and colleagues. Think of Keanu Reeves’ moving speech when he was included in Canada’s Walk of Fame. He pays tribute to all the people and places that made him who he is today and does so at every opportunity.

Research shows that when a person gossips negatively about others, the qualities they attribute to the other person also become associated with them. It’s much better to comment on another person’s positive qualities as they become associated with you due to a kind of halo effect. 

Action step: The next time you get some praise for something or receive a compliment, share the credit with others, even if it’s a compliment about what you’re wearing. How? Mention the shop or quality of the manufacturer. Done a great job? Remember who helped you out.

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12. Remember people’s names

Remembering a person’s name might make you more memorable, too! 

In the short video below, actor Paul Sparks describes how his acting colleague Hugh Jackman endeared himself to the whole crew when they worked together. Notice what he mentions after commenting on his physical presence.

Action step: If you have trouble remembering names, try these five tips to retain a person’s name. 

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Is Being Charismatic A Personality Trait? 

Being charismatic is not a specific personality trait. Instead,  charisma is conveyed by mastery of a particular set of social skills—social skills that can be learned.

Check out the charisma quiz to gauge your natural strengths and identify your particular balance of warmth and competence to nurture your charisma. By deepening your self-awareness, you can learn which cues you need to dial-up and dial down to optimize your charisma and become more persuasive and magnetic.

Take a look at this handy illustration from the new book Cues: Master the Secret Language of Charismatic Communication to see how this works.

Warmth and Charisma matrix

When you take the charisma diagnostic, you’ll fall into one of the four quadrants. 

If you do fall into the charisma quadrant, then your main issue will be that you’ll find yourself in high demand and might struggle to balance all the opportunities that come your way.

If you fall into the warm zone, you’re likely to be popular and trusted, but struggle with being a people pleaser and being recognized. You need to dial up your competence cues. 

If you fall into the competent zone, you’re likely to be highly respected for your skills, knowledge, and power. Still, others may find you unapproachable and intimidating. You need to dial up your warmth cues.

If you fall into the danger zone, don’t despair! Many charismatic people were once awkward, too.

While the traditional education system in most countries teaches young people how to complete tasks and acquire academic and technical skills, communication and social skills are rarely on the menu. That’s where the People School comes in!

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How Do You Know If Someone Is Charismatic? 

A charismatic personality is typically described as magnetic and persuasive, a special kind of likable. They have a noticeable presence in a room. In addition to being warm and approachable, people rate their competence highly and trust them to get things done. Their unique blend of friendliness and confidence communicates an authentic charm.

A charismatic person is quietly self-assured, fully present, and real while remaining open and approachable. They are likely to be more interested in others than themselves and be highly empathetic. All these qualities mean they are likely to be more successful than others due to their ability to influence people. They are likely to be living the life they want and enjoy. 

An article on Ranker reviewed a Twitter debate about who was the most charismatic celebrity in Hollywood. One man scored the highest for on-screen and off-screen magnetism. And he’s NOT a bubbly extrovert, but rather a quiet, reflective type.

Tweet about Keanu Reeves's charisma

So remember, if you feel like you’re often overlooked at work or seen as unapproachably intimidating at parties, you can fix that. Charismatic personality traits result from social skills that can be mastered.

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Takeaway 5 Top Tips:

"By focusing your attention on the other person in a conversation... and ultimately treating everyone exactly the same way despite their status or title, you will be well on your way to exuding charisma."—Alessandra Conti, Forbes
  • Increase your self-awareness by practicing mindfulness.
  • Remember that warmth and competence combined make you more magnetic.
  • Always network in your social sweet spots.
  • Listen actively and show interest in others.
  • Share praise and treat others as you’d like to be treated.

Visit People School to learn how it’s done. Together, we’ve got this!

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