So What Was That About?


Here I solicited your self-ratings in six areas:

  1. Has a presence in a room.
  2. Has the ability to influence people.
  3. Knows how to lead a group.
  4. Makes people feel comfortable.
  5. Smiles at people often.
  6. Can get along with anyone.

I hope you’re wondering what that was about. If you haven’t already shared your answers, please be so kind as to do so now.

I’ve been teaching charisma. To trial lawyers, sure (especially in the context of voir dire, where being more likable than the other guy is the most important thing), but also to business students and ordinary people.

The conception of charisma I have been teaching, I adopted from an outstanding book, The Charisma Myth, by Olivia Fox Cabane. Cabane’s model of charisma has three components: presence, power, and warmth.

I’d further distinguished personal power (freedom from others’ power over you) from social power (power over others), and theorized that the sort of power that is relevant to charisma is personal power, combined with humility. I’d also started developing a theory of charisma in loops that I think might help people maximize their charisma.

I have decided, in the course of this, that I’m ready to stop relying on popular glosses on scientific studies of persuasion, charisma, and related topics, and go to the peer-reviewed papers documenting the studies. So I have joined the American Psychological Association for access to their library of papers and discounted subscriptions to journals. I have also subscribed to Leadership Quarterly, because most of the research into charisma has been leadership-specific.

I plan to document here some of the things I learn from my dive into the psychological literature on persuasion and charisma, possibly with the goal of writing my own book on charisma for trial lawyers.

So here’s the first installment.

One recent effort to define charisma is by a group of University of Toronto professors, Konstantin O. Tskhay, Rebecca Zhu, Christopher Zou, and Nicholas O.Rule. Tskhay and his colleagues have published Charisma in Everyday Life: Conceptualization and Validation of the General Charisma Inventory in January, 2018, in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (abstract).

Tskhay et al. propose that charisma is influence + affability. These are interpersonal dimensions—they only exist in relation to other people (unlike presence, for example, which you can have with nobody else around).

The six items you rated yourself on in response to my last post are the six items that comprise Tskhay and his colleagues’ General Charisma Inventory. The first three …

  • Has a presence in a room.
  • Has the ability to influence people.
  • Knows how to lead a group.

… Tskhay and his colleagues called “influence” and the last three …

  • Makes people feel comfortable.
  • Smiles at people often.
  • Can get along with anyone.

… they denominated “affability.” They found that “self-reported ratings of Influence and Affability correlated with others’ ratings of Influence and Affability, respectively,” and “speakers scoring higher on the GCI were more persuasive.” (An interesting detail: affability predicted persuasiveness for women, but not for men, “consistent with gender stereotypes.”)

So what I solicited here was your GCI self-rating, which is a rough measure of your persuasive charisma. I like this in addition to Cabane’s power+presence+warmth formulation because it gives us a different way of looking at, and therefore another way of working on, charisma.


4 responses to “So What Was That About?”

  1. To qualify, not a trial lawyer, just a guy in a corporate job for a long time and not ‘succesful’ according to the powers that shouldn’t be.

    1. Yes. At least according to others 5
    2. Yes, daily. 5
    3 yes, proven

    4. NO, rarely. Being comfy doesn’t get desired outcomes.
    5. Yes, bit not always because I agree
    6. No, almost never

  2. Hmmmm. I was slightly dismissive of my reply to the question, but perhaps I jumped the gun. The reason for that is that I am struggling to overcome some pretty basic dichotomies WRT myself, I am actually pretty good at analyzing what’s going on when others are doing it.

    But it’s more than that, because the topic lies directly athwart my struggle to overcome those breaks. In 4 decades+ of trying to make a busted social interface work, I learned much, but now that I have a couple things straightened out, I can also look upon my own past with fresh eyes. You might say that I can look at most aspects of personal interaction from 3 different points of view while owning all of them.

    I forgot to thank you, BTW, but thanks for your discussion of feedback loops. I have long considered that sort of thing, for the obvious reasons, but your re-frame has jolted me enough to start reconsidering some things about how loops operate. This isn’t a good language for precision, though, since looked at with a tech’s eyes, the “death spiral” would be labeled “negative-content positive feedback loop”, which is just confusing.

    So, if you’ve taken the time to read this and want to talk, thank you, and I’d look forward to the event.

    To quote a certain NFL coach, “time’s yours”.

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