The charisma of asking questions

I used to think of a charismatic person as someone who had a ton of followers who hung on that person’s every word and enthusiastically commented on everything the person said. And that is one form of charisma that is especially highlighted in this age of social media.

But recently I realized that charisma isn’t always obvious or flashy or someone with crowds of people adoring them.

Sometimes charisma is subtle, intimate, the connection that occurs between two people or a small group of people.

In November I started working at a customer support center for a software company and within a few weeks I was taking calls and listening to people share their woes about their technology. Many times they called in frustrated or worried or upset, and my role wasn’t to simply solve their problem, but also listen with empathy and ask the right questions.

And yet it was also about the delivery of the questions, about the creation of a relationship where I could help a person shift from a place of anger and frustration to a place of relief and empowerment. So I wouldn’t just ask questions, but I would start to build a relationship through the questions I asked. Before long most of the people I talked with would be chatting with me as we solved the problem together.

It helped me realize that charisma can come in many different forms and that instead of getting fixated on one idea of what charisma can be, it can actually be worthwhile to redefine what charisma is in relationship to how you connect with people.

Asking a question, listening intently, and building rapport can be its own form of charisma that helps you create a relationship with the person you’re connecting with. It’s not loud or obvious. It doesn’t bring with it a ton of people hanging on your every word, but it doesn’t have to.

And perhaps if we can look at charisma differently, we can stop trying to force ourselves to fit in a mold of being the flamboyant personality, and simply focus on being ourselves and letting our charisma naturally help us create the important relationships that matter.

In the case of asking questions, I find that making the question open ended often helps a lot to really allow the person to open up to you. Listen to what the person, ask more questions and let the story unfold before you. When you do that you will create a relationship of genuine appreciation and liking.

If we can redefine what charisma seems to be we won’t hold ourselves to trying to be charismatic in a particular way that is unrealistic and based on ego. Instead we can cultivate genuine relationships based on truly reaching out and connecting with people and allowing that moment to be one where charisma shines through.

Taylor Ellwood is a writer on a journey to discover what’s next.