Walking the Talk
How Do You Get Charisma? A Conversation with My Son
A true story about building rapport and bringing joy to each other through simple conversation
Everyday conversations are opportunities to open a window of joy in another person’s experience.
Talking to people is a necessary part of most jobs. Emails, social media, and blogs are great as ways for people to find you, but they take a lot of exposure to build a relationship over time so that a person feels like they know you when they come across your online touch point.
On the other hand, audibly talking quickly builds rapport. A lot of information gets sent through the tones of our voice. If it’s done in person, even more is communicated through body language.
My son walked in the other day when I was finishing off a call, and it may or may not have been for work — it could have been just a simple car service booking. But the principle remains the same because he often sees me talking on the phone. As I hung up, he surprised me with his question — “How do you speak with so much charisma, mum?”
I wasn’t so much flattered as perplexed. It was a really good question, and something he seemed to want to know as a piece of vital information to build his world view. I answered him then, and I will try and provide this answer here too.
Charisma comes from a sense of loving selflessness flowing from a sense of life as abundant and rich in opportunity for ongoing experience. Whether I’m booking a car, talking to a client or a colleague, I’m not interested in myself during that conversation. I have a purpose in what I need to communicate, but that purpose is subsidiary to making sure that the other person in the conversation feels good as they hear it.
If our conversations can give people the sense of feeling better than when they started out, then they have achieved something in addition to the need that we had to communicate. And people will listen better, and give you more of what you want, without you asking for it.
There’s a lot of reasons this is important. Communication is a two way, not a one way street. If the other person hasn’t understood you, you actually haven’t communicated anything, you’ve just talked.
But understanding doesn’t happen if someone is feeling defensive, rushed, judged, or any other negative association. If someone is feeling negative, they will be in the fight-or-flight zone. Their blood circulation will pull back from their extremities to their core, and the memory won’t be engaged.
I’ve been in a lot of conversations with people where they use micro-aggression and passive-aggressiveness to wear you down. Who hasn’t? There’s that constant niggling feeling that somehow you are being blamed, and it could be for something you did or didn’t do. You won’t know what, of course, because if you even start to say anything about it, it triggers them to either lash out or shut down further.
Those are the conversations where you have to stay in your charisma — your free flow of energy — no matter what, no matter how provoked or justified you might feel. That’s when you have to ramp up the listening — because non violent communication is all about listening. And if you can communicate that you are listening, then at least you have done all you can to diffuse their trigger.
What has also thoroughly helped, and I recommend to everyone, is doing a stand up comedy course. When you do stand up comedy, a big part is learning skillful self-deprecation. You don’t want to wallow, but you do want to be joyfully self aware.
Being able to laugh at yourself, and not take yourself too seriously, and to share your most awkward self-knowledge that would otherwise cause a person shame — lightheartedly — means that you are in a good position to look at yourself objectively during a conversation.
So, if you feel you need a little more charisma in your 1 to 1 conversations, here are the takeaways:
- Relax. It’s not that important.
- The other person has a life. Respect that they are giving time to you.
- If they are upset, listen — don’t push. Perhaps wait for a better time.
- Ask as many questions as you can about them whilst remaining professional and polite — let them know you are interested.
- Be open and share moments from your common life experience if there are opportunities to built authentic relationship.
- Don’t be transactional. You’re here for them, too, not just to get something.
- Laugh and tell jokes if appropriate.
- If nothing more happened than that they felt good, it’s enough. There’s always a chance for a second conversation.
If you leave a conversation with someone feeling good, even if you didn’t get a change to come to a conclusion or say everything you needed, at least they will seek you out again or welcome another call from you, and you’ll be able to continue on. It’s better than being in a situation where the person you need to speak to hangs up on you or won’t return your calls, because one time you got a kick from being right rather than being kind.