In a recent article, we covered the concept of charisma and what it can do for tradies looking to improve their businesses, their careers, and their reputations. In case you missed it, the long and short of it was this: charisma is a valuable life skill with benefits that span virtually every facet of your working and personal life.
Since not everyone is lucky enough to have been born with the trait, we’ll be diving into the five most important habits for developing charisma. Along the way, we’ll touch upon exercises, mindsets, and resources worth noting.
1. Get Comfortable
If we asked you to think of a charismatic person, odds are the mental image that forms for you is someone cool, composed, and in-control. You’d never catch James Bond fidgeting in his seat, or Princess Leia with a nervous stutter.
A calm demeanour goes a long way towards giving off an air of charm or authority, yet keeping your feelings and tics in check while immersed in any given situation is easier said than done. We’re social beings with a desire to fit in and be liked—which makes it easy to fall into states of heightened self-consciousness.
Many of the pitfalls and problems that come with trying to be charismatic are the result of uncertainty over things like how likeable you are at a glance, or how well your approach to communication might work on a stranger.
As such, the first and most important trick to practice while developing your charisma is getting comfortable with yourself and the people you meet. There are a handful of ways to improve your confidence and feel comfortable no matter the situation.
For one thing, daily self-affirmations should be worked into your routine, no matter how confident you may feel on a given day. The habit of reminding yourself of your value and best features has been proven to reduce stress and improve problem-solving skills.
Before major social encounters, it also helps to monitor and influence your stress levels. If you find yourself experiencing tell-tale signs of stress or anxiety, take a few deep breaths and have a drink of water while clearing your mind. It also goes without saying that you should aim to keep yourself physically comfortable; loose and relaxed is where you want to be.
Lastly, it helps to work towards a level of comfort with the people you meet. If you find yourself feeling self-conscious when meeting new leads, practice the art of curiosity: actively view them as people with interesting stories behind them, rather than as people to be impressed.
Once you spot the unnecessary stressors that surround communication and prevent you from developing your charisma, trimming them away is a cinch. From there, you can expect to carry yourself with a bit more suave than you did before.
2. Mind the Way You Talk
Charismatic people are smooth-talkers, capable of expressing themselves with both clarity and the perfect amount of emotional appeal. They rarely struggle for words—and when they do, the act of struggling only serves to emphasise a wider point.
Paying attention to your speech patterns is an important step in developing your charisma. Most people speak without a care for how it sounds to the guy on the receiving end, which is a good way to waste opportunities to learn and adapt.
On that note, here are some particular features of speech you could spend time refining:
Your Choice of Words
It’s easy to set yourself up for less-than-desirable outcomes on account of a poor choice of words. For instance, you could describe a catastrophic situation as bad, only to get a response that doesn’t match the gravity of what you’re talking about.
Expanding your vocabulary to include a wider range of descriptive words can add weight to your efforts to explain and convince. Likewise, brushing up on “power words” can give your sentences some much-needed heft.
You can also have a read through some idiomatic phrases and figures of speech to give your dialogue a more relatable feel. They’ll serve you well in moments when, “she’ll be right,” does a better job of putting a client at ease than, “we’ll give the situation our full attention.”
The Sound of Your Voice
The volume, tone, and cadence (i.e. rhythm) of speech are largely under-appreciated by those looking to develop their charisma. Don’t let the lack of buzz fool you: how you sound is just as important as what you say, and when you choose to speak.
Practice with a mate to fine-tune your pitch and flow. If all your mates are busy, then a decent voice recorder will do.
Toastmasters International published a very helpful guide to the ins and outs of perfecting your speaking voice. You can find a PDF copy of the guide here.
Your Verbal Crutches
Verbal crutches are linguistic placeholders that kick in when the mouth moves faster than the brain. These are your um’s, uhh’s, like’s, and actually’s.
People who speak with authority have virtually eliminated verbal crutches from their lexicon. If you’re to have any hope of developing charisma, then you’d do well to jump into the program as well.
Getting around verbal crutches involves two things: mindfulness and pacing. Pay attention to what you say as you’re saying it, and you’ll find at least a handful of words in a given sentence that don’t need to be there. You can iron them out by slowing down and putting in the work to craft sentences that get the job done—no more, no less.
3. Talk Less, Listen More
As we mentioned in the last tip, knowing when to pipe down and listen up is a big part of developing charisma. The art of listening deserves its own section on this list, and for a number of reasons.
It’s a common misconception to think that charismatic people grace people with the sound of their voice whenever the opportunity comes about. In truth, most charismatic people can identify the perfect moment to share what’s on their mind.
Take note of when you feel compelled to speak up, and when you feel compelled to hold back.
As a general rule of thumb, you’re doing a good job if you can keep the other party talking. Having a talkative conversation partner signifies that they’re interested in volunteering information, and can be a good indicator that you’re coming across as invested in what they have to say.
Of course, this only matters if you’re an active listener while they’re gabbing. Demonstrate that you’re listening by maintaining eye contact and responding when appropriate.
Improving your listening skills also comes with the benefit of tapping into what your leads and clients are thinking. People who’ve developed charisma are able to draw out as much useful information as they offer—something that really comes in handy during negotiations.
At this point, it’s important to note that this tip isn’t a hard and fast rule. Some situations may indeed call for a good amount of talking on your part. Practice good sense, learn to read where conversations are headed, and don’t hesitate to speak up when it’s time to get your hands back on the steering wheel.
4. Control Your Body Language
How you look matters in communication—and by that, we don’t just mean you should keep yourself well-groomed. As part of developing charisma, you ought to be very mindful of your own body language.
Posture, for instance, can speak volumes. The mere act of holding yourself upright when talking to someone signifies that you respect them enough not to slouch. Of course, context matters as much here as anywhere else: choosing to slouch could mean you’re casual and disinterested, or let your conversation partner know that you’re comfortable around them.
Body language is a rich subject, and you’ll find a lot of stellar resources if you spend some time looking. For the purposes of this article, we’ve narrowed down a few favourites of ours:
Second only to the mouth, the hands are the most communicative parts of the body. Where you put them and what you do with them can speak volumes, even to the untrained eye.
We urge you to look into what your hands are saying on your own time, but for now, we recommend that you keep your hands visible and refrain from fidgeting—you look much more self-assured when you can keep them still.
Eye contact is critical to forming connections with the people you meet. Failure to maintain eye contact can be taken as a sign of disinterest (at best) or deception (at worst).
Keep your eyes trained on your communication partner for at least 60% of the time you spend engaging in conversation. It reinforces your perceived level of interest in them and the conversation you’re having, and comes with the added plus of being able to watch what their body language is telling you.
And if it even bears mentioning at this point, don’t stare. Looking away every now and then is natural and expected, so do break eye contact every so often.
Your Facial Expression
We saved the most obvious factor in nonverbal communication for last: your facial expressions.
In developing charisma, you may or may not ever get the hang of controlling the faces you make. Perfect control isn’t common, and we’d argue that the world is a more honest place for that fact—so don’t stress out if you can’t give a genuine smile on cue.
The only important thing to bear in mind when it comes to facial expressions is to be vigilant and mindful. If you catch yourself making a face that betrays an emotion you aren’t inclined to show, feel free to try and mask it.
Charismatic people aren’t perfect; they just do a better job of curating their image.
5. Put Yourself Second
Having a self-centered view of charisma is the easiest way to come across as annoying or self-absorbed. You’ve definitely met the type: loud voice, exaggerated smile, and all too keen to insert themselves into conversations.
Many people who fail at developing charisma do so because they never catch on to the golden rule of effective communication: your success depends on the listener.
Charismatic people have an instinct for making others feel at ease and appreciated. They’re experts at understanding other points of view, and working to reconcile differences, not surmount them. In the same way, charismatic people know how to express themselves to best relate to others, not impress them.
Developing charisma means putting ego aside, and attuning yourself to the interests, needs, and preferences of those around you. At the end of the day, you’re only as charming as you are perceptive.
When all’s said and done, it pays to be a charismatic tradie in a world full of trades professionals looking to leave their mark and take on more clients. We can’t stress how helpful of a skill it is towards improving your career, your enterprise, and your relationships across the board.
Since there are no shortcuts to developing charisma, you can expect it to be a lifelong contract that takes time, focus, and a healthy amount of failure to get right.
Learn more about developing your personal brand as a tradie with our guide on the subject, and find more resources on ruling the tradie world over at our blog.