A communications coach has revealed her go-to tricks for improving your ‘likeability’ and charisma – and says limiting jerky movements having clean fingernails, wearing flattering clothing and projecting ‘warmth’ are key to success.
Michelle Bowden, a certified speaking professional, has delivered her Persuasive Presentation Skills masterclass for more than 12,000 people and works with the who’s who of international business to help them win multi-million-dollar bids and projects.
Now, she’s written her new book How to Persuade to equip readers with the skills, tips and actions you need to get exactly what you want and improve your charisma.
Michelle Bowden, a certified speaking professional, has delivered her Persuasive Presentation Skills masterclass for more than 12,000 people
‘It’s a fact that likable people are the ones who get furthest in life. Even if you’re not the smartest or most experienced, if you are the most likeable, you’ll often be the most persuasive in the moment,’ Michelle says.
‘In contrast, unlikeable people are a turn-off. They destroy the joy and can make people feel uncomfortable, judged and fearful.
‘The four most capable behaviors in others were unsatisfactory grooming, killing the fun, and unlike ignoring or talking over others.’
1. Be attractive
Whether you like this fact or not, attractive people get more breaks in life than their ‘plain’ counterparts.
Business psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic reported in 2019 that people who don’t fit a society’s dominant aesthetic criteria simply don’t get the same breaks in life as those who do.
And psychologist and researcher at Harvard University Nancy L Etcoff and her colleagues published a 2011 study that found that groomed woman who were wearing makeup were seen as more attractive, competent, likeable and trustworthy than women who presented with a bare face. Pretty convincing!
The good news is that ‘attractiveness’ doesn’t really relate to your ‘natural’ beauty. Whatever you look like, you can certainly make the most of your qualities and features.
Whether you like this fact or not, attractive people get more breaks in life than their ‘plain’ counterparts
You don’t have to spend a lot of money making yourself attractive. Ask yourself the following:
• Is your hair styled the best way for your face? Is it well kept and stylish?
• Do you keep yourself clean and tidy?
• Are you wearing clothes that flatter your body type?
• Are your nose and ear hairs trimmed?
• Do you smell good?
• Are your teeth clean?
• Are your fingernails well kept?
• Do you have clean shoes, and are your clothes laundered and ironed without food stains and mess?
• Did you tuck in your shirt?
You may think this is fussy and no-one else’s business, and the bad news is that you think that at your own peril. This stuff counts when it comes to persuasion.
The three ways to boost your charisma – and why it matters
Why be charismatic?
Charismatic people are attractive, likeable, and respected. They convey a contagious confidence for their point of view and can win people over with their magnetic personality and charm. When someone is charismatic, people want to be like them, and they also want to spend time with them. And when someone is charismatic, they are automatically more believable, no matter their point of view. You will most definitely be more persuasive if you can develop your perceived charisma.
There are three areas to work on if you want to build your perceived charisma with others:
Presence is about a smoothness of activity. Imagine a swan gliding along the water. They seem calm, serene, and controlled. Under the water their legs are kicking and paddling furiously, but you don’t see all that commotion.
To ensure you seem smooth on the surface it’s important to limit stressful behavior such as jerky movements, closed body language, and impulsive comments, or actions.
You can demonstrate power by holding an upright, commanding posture and maintaining direct-connected eye contact
Power is all about your self-belief and how much you like and back yourself. It’s about an inner confidence that radiates from you and implies success.
You can demonstrate power by holding an upright, commanding posture, maintaining direct-connected eye contact, and by your superior ability to articulate your point through excellent structure and clever storytelling.
Perhaps you could begin to improve your power and charisma by participating in the conversations around you. Try to inject a short story, an example, or a metaphor (even in a small way) into every conversation.
Warmth is about your perceived care and acceptance of the other person. If you are a charismatic person, you put people at ease and you make people feel amazing!
You make others feel important and as though they matter. This of course can be very alluring and addictive to the people around you. People want to spend time with someone who makes them feel worthy.
If you’re keen to develop this capability aim to do all the activities that build rapport easily, care about others, remember key facts about them.
Interestingly warmth is also very much conveyed through the eyes and facial expressions. If you’d like to improve your warmth and therefore your charisma you could practice looking at people in the same way you would look at a person you care for deeply (don’t be weird about this though!).
2. Smile and ‘smize’
Smiling is a winning behavior internationally recognized as a sign of positivity. Did you know that babies are born with the ability to smile? People who smile are seen by others as confident, positive and attractive.
You appear younger when you smile a lot because of the way smiling affects the muscles in your face. Smiling is even good for you because it releases endorphins and other chemicals that help you relax and feel good.
Unsurprisingly, an American Association of Cosmetic Dentistry study found that people were more likely to remember your smile than the first thing you said.
A wonderful strategy for persuasion is to not just smile but ‘smize’ – or smile with your eyes. This is a term coined by supermodel Tyra Banks.
Over 50 different types of smiles are possible, but the one that is considered the most sincere is the smize – it pushes up into your eyes, your eyes sparkle and you look genuinely happy.
Unsurprisingly, an American Association of Cosmetic Dentistry study found that people were more likely to remember your smile than the first thing you said
3. Laugh and use humour to negotiate
Laughing is a wonderful way to build rapport with people because playful communication triggers good feelings and a positive emotional connection.
You probably know that a sense of humour is one of the first things people look for in a life partner – because people who can laugh are more likely to let go of defensiveness, act more spontaneously and release inhibitions.
Funny people are likeable. People who laugh freely are thought of as joyful, light and fun to be around. Who wouldn’t want that?
Humor that’s working for both parties can also help you negotiate more effectively, resolve conflict and move people forward. It’s true that laughter units people during difficult times. Befriend funny people and watch and read funny things daily.
Whether you are standing or sitting down, aligning your shoulders with the other person and keeping your hands open and obvious suggests that you are interested and engaged in the conversation
4. Show your hands and don’t fidget
Showing your hands signals safety – the people around you have nothing to fear.
Whether you are standing or sitting down, aligning your shoulders with the other person and keeping your hands open and obvious suggests that you are interested and engaged in the conversation.
Turning away, twisting your body or hiding your hands signifies either a lack of interest or disagreement.
You also shouldn’t do a whole lot of other things with your hands if you’re aiming to be trustworthy. For example, don’t cross your arms, put your hands in your pocket, hold your crotch, clasp your hands behind your back, hold your fingers in a steeple position, touch your face or hair, or fidget with your rings or clothes.
These distracting hand movements stop your stakeholder from listening properly. They may even start to distrust you.
Turning away, twisting your body or hiding your hands signifies either a lack of interest or disagreement
Michelle has written her new book How to Persuade to equip readers with the skills, tips and actions you need to get exactly what you want and improve your charisma.
5. Listen and don’t talk over people
Bestselling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen Covey, wisely said, ‘Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply’.
Isn’t it just so irritating when you are talking and someone speaks over the top of you? Doing so implies that the person doesn’t value what you’re saying. It breaks rapport and prevents the forming of goodwill.
Try to do what you can to listen when someone is talking. Take a moment of pause before adding your point.
If you focus on these five actions, you’ll be even more likeable than you already are and look out the world – because this is one of the skills you need to get what you want!
Edited extracts from How to Persuade: The skills you need to get what you want (Wiley $29.95, 1 Aug 2022) by Michelle Bowden.