Bill Clinton has it. Frank Sinatra had it. And you can have it too. The amazing level of charm both Bill and Frank emit can naturally make people think it was a divine gift from birth. But you can learn it too. I know this because I learned it. I went from charm illiteracy to mastery in just over a couple of years. Now I put this skill to use just about every day.
I’m not saying this to brag. In fact, the first rule of charm is: don’t brag about yourself. I broke my own first rule just so I can illustrate how far you can raise your skill level. You should be able to do it faster than me too since I learned this mostly by trial and error.
Charm 101: The Basics
Posture – Throw your shoulders back. Stand up straight, but keep your body relaxed. Use the basic position of the Alexander technique for proper form.
Eye contact – This goes a long way. Use this when shaking hands or saying someone’s name and you have a winning combination.
Control your voice – Talk in a soothing and controlled voice. If people like the sound of your voice, they’ll like you. Don’t be monotone and slow down your speaking voice if you talk fast.
Smile – Smiling is contagious. Smile when you first meet someone and interject your conversation with a few smiles here and there. You’ll appear very friendly and personable.
Use names – People like hearing their name. Use their name a couple of times in your conversation. Of course, make sure it is the right name. If you are a bad listener and use a different name, they’ll think you don’t care about them.
Energy – Every person has an energy level in conversation. Try to match the other person’s energy level. Also, be animated with hand gestures.
Relax – Nothing makes someone else feel unbalanced more than if you’re not comfortable. If you relax, others will relax.
Mirroring – Match the movements of the person you’re talking to. Pretend there’s a giant mirror between the two of you. The key is to be subtle. You’ll come off weird if you make it obvious what you’re doing. Some people are so good at this they can mirror breathing movements of the other person. I was only mildly successful at doing that.
Speak in an Interesting Way
I’ve read in many places that you should spend most of your time talking about the other person. This is good advice for keeping a conversation going, but terrible if you actually want to charm someone.
If you spend almost all of your time talking about the other person, none of your personality or stories will come out. And if that happens, you will not come off as charming.
Usually I spend about half or more of the conversation talking about the other person. But I’ve also charmed other people where the conversation was almost entirely about me. If you have interesting things to say about yourself, good delivery and have good energy, you don’t need to talk about the other person to be charming.
In most cases, I spend the first few sentences of a conversation about myself. I start off with a story or ask an opinion on something I’ve seen or read about. Once I’ve got their attention, I switch to talking about them and their interests.
This is important to do because if you talk about them right away, they might wonder why they should be talking to you if they have to provide all the stories and conversation. If you start off the conversation well, they’ll relax more and want to contribute back to you.
I’m going to share with you one of my best kept secrets of charm…pausing. Some of my most charming moments are when I’m not saying a word at all. I’ll use them when someone asks me a question. Before I respond, I’ll pause for a few seconds all while maintaining eye contact as if I’m searching for the right word.
This shows the other person that you control your words carefully. When you add pauses to your speech it gives the other person time to absorb what you’ve just said. Plus, if you do it right it can make what you say sound really important. A well placed pause in conversation can build anticipation about what you’re going to say.
Practice putting pauses in your conversations and eventually you’ll find the right times to use them. They can fit into many places.
Be the Exception
Have you ever participated in speed dating? Imagine meeting 20 people for only five minutes at a time in one night. Now imagine they all ask you the same questions and talk about the same things all night. What do you do for a living? Are you originally from here? Why did you move to this area?
By the time you reach the tenth person, you might as well be talking about the weather. Speed dating is like hitting the fast forward button for conversations in real life. Talking about the same thing and asking the same questions as everyone else is just noise. Stand out. Be the person who dares to talk about something else.
There’s a time and place to ask what someone does for a living. For me, it’s about the 20th question down the line. Too many people ask it sooner. Asking it too soon shows little originality or creativity in conversation. And who wants to be around someone like that?
Do you have any ways that you charm others? Be the exception now by leaving a unique and insightful comment.