Another Model of Charisma

I’ve talked about the power + presence + warmth model of charisma, and about Tshkay and colleagues’ affability + influence model, in which they pick six self-observable traits to describe charisma:

  • Makes people feel comfortable.
  • Smiles at people often.
  • Can get along with anyone.
  • Has a presence in a room.
  • Has the ability to influence people.
  • Knows how to lead a group.

If you think of charisma as power + presence + warmth, you can work on the individual components of your own charisma. That is, you can increase your charisma by working on on projecting power (whether personal or social), being present, and feeling warmth.

If you see charisma as affability + influence, where affability might not be the same as presence + warmth and influence might not be the same as power, you can work on those traits. And if you break those traits down into “making people comfortable,” “knowing how to lead a group,” and so forth, you might increase your charisma by improving those more specific abilities.

One model of charisma might resonate better with you than the other. Or both might feel equally right. If you are working on warmth, you might smile at people more often, either as a result of warmth or as a step toward warmth. (“Has the ability to influence people” is tautological, in our model, since we are looking at charisma as a tool for persuasion.)

In a 2013 article in the Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, “‘Easy to Sense But Hard to Define’: Charismatic Nonverbal Communication and the Psychotherapist,” Frederick J. Heide collected some other components of charisma.

Charisma is both verbal and nonverbal. Verbal aspects involve use of metaphor, story, and emotionally appealing language to communicate an inspiring vision and increase self-efficacy. Nonverbal components include paralinguistics (aspects of speech such as variability in volume, rate, pitch, articulation, fluency, and emphasis), kinesics (body involvement such as posture shifts or head movements), gestural fluency, facial expressivity, and eye contact. Although both components are important, the present review will focus on nonverbal features, whose relevance to psychotherapists has been largely overlooked despite their substantial and arguably predominant contribution to perceptions of charisma

We can incorporate some or all of these aspects into our charisma practice. We don’t have to incorporate all of them, but what works for me might not be what works best for me. As I find other models and aspects of charisma, I’ll share them here. 

3 responses to “Another Model of Charisma”

  1. I wonder if some individual courtroom attorneys might feel that they have to tweak these seemingly universal models because of their gender, race, ethnicity, height/weight, attractiveness/plainness, voice. etc. I also wonder if during a trial there are not moments when affability should give way to a more aggressive, righteous, scoffing, dominating demeanor. Your website avatar’s expression looks right to this amateur for cross examination or litigation negotiation, not necessarily for direct or addressing the judge. But I am here to learn, not teach, so what am I missing?

    • Jurors’ views of your charisma are mostly determined (if you are being real) in the first seconds of your voir dire. (“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”) After that, you don’t want to be a jackass, but if you think you have the jury’s permission to be harsher, you can.

      We can all work on better (not necessarily more) eye contact, better vocal modulation, looking better, and so forth. I’m not sure what you mean by “tweak.”

  2. Charming vs Charismatic?

    When I picture people I know (esp. trial lawyers) with all of these traits, I find myself thinking that they’re charming. I would also classify some of those people as charismatic, but certainly not all of them.

    When I picture the charismatic people I know personally they’re all charming, too. I can only think of a couple of lawyers with an angry/hostile style who are successful on a regular basis. (Some examples of darkly charismatic people come to mind, but they’re the sort of people I know through media or history book coverage. Maybe they’re charming as hell one-on-one.)

    Maybe I’m defining charisma too narrowly, but as in think more about this model, I would argue that for trial lawyers, charm is more important than—or at least a satisfactory substitute for—charisma. Is charm just low-key charisma?

    (Full disclosure: I may be a little biased here. I would rate myself much higher on the elements of this model than the PPW model. I know from experience that I do well with jurors, but I’ve never thought of myself as charismatic. I think I’m likeable, and ive been called charming before, but never charismatic. My gut tells me that, when put in that frame, you’re in the same boat.)

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