"The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane - excerpts from the book"
The Charisma Myth: How anyone can master the art and science of personal magnetism by Olivia Fox Cabane
p 84 - 85
Self-compassion is how much warmth we can have for ourselves, especially when we're going through a difficult experience.
It's quite possible for people to have high self-confidence but low self-esteem and very low self-compasssion. Like Helen, these people may consider themselves fairly competent, but they don't necessarily like themselves any more for it, and they can be very hard on themselves when they don't succeed.
Recent behavioral science research indicates that it may be healthier to focus on self-compassion than on self-esteem. The former is based on self-acceptance, the latter on self-evaluation and social comparison. Self-esteem is more of a roller coaster, contingent on how believe we compare to others. It also tends to correlate with narcissism.
Individuals who score high on self-compassion scales demonstrate greater emotional resilience to daily difficulties and fewer negative reactions to difficult situations, such as receiving unflattering feedback. Higher self-compassion predicts a greater sense of personal responsibility for the outcome of events: it helps predict levels of accountability. People who score high on self-compassion also have a lower tendency for denial. That makes sense: personal mistakes would generate less self-criticism, so people would be more willing to admit to them.
When they hear the term self-compassion, people often assume it is synonymous with self-indulgence or self-pity. Surprisingly, the opposite is true. Solid behavioral science research shows that the higher one's level of self-compassion, the lower one's level of self-pity. You can think of the difference between the two this way: self-compassion is feeling that what happened to you is unfortunate, whereas self-pity is feeling that what happened to you is unfair. In this way, self-pity can lead to resentment or bitterness, and to feeling more isolated and alienated. In contrast, self-compassion often leads to increased feelings of connectedness.
Self-compassion is what helps us forgive ourselves when we've fallen short; it's what prevents internal criticism from taking over and playing across our face, ruining our charisma potential. In this way, self-compassion is critical to emanating warmth.
Interestingly, self-compassion can also help you emanate greater self-confidence.
p 86 - 87
Kristin Neff, one of compassion's foremost researchers, defines self-compassion as a three-step process: First, realizing that we're experiencing difficulties. Second, responding with kindness and understanding toward ourselves when we are suffering or feel inadequate, rather than being harshly self-critical. Third, realizing that whatever we're going through is commonly experienced by all human beings, and remembering that everyone goes through difficult times.
When things go wrong in our lives, it's easy to feel that other people are having an easier time. Recognizing instead that everyone at some point has had or will have the very experience you're having now can help you feel like part of the larger human experience rather than feeling isolated and alienated.
When our inner critic starts pointing out our misdeeds and imperfections, it will often make us feel that everyone else is doing better, that we're the only ones who are this flawed. Self-criticism is much stronger when our suffering seems due to our own perceived failures and inadequacies than when it seems due to external circumstances. This is when self-compassion is the most precious.
How does one go about cultivating self-compassion? The good news is that intention is the most crucial component of treating yourself kindly.
p 130 - 131
Once you have the right mindset, how do you ensure the right behaviors? Effective listening means behaving in a way that makes whomever you're speaking with feel truly understood.
Good listeners know never, ever to interrupt - not even if the impulse to do so comes from excitement about something the other person just said. No matter how congratulatory and warm your input, it will always result in their feeling at least a twinge of resentment or frustration at not having been allowed to complete their sentence. One of my clients told me: "This one practice alone is worth its weight in gold. To stop interrupting others could be the single most important skill I've learned from working with you."
Great listeners know to let others interrupt them. When someone interrupts you, let them! Were they right to interrupt you? Of course not. But even if they were wrong, it's not worth making them feel wrong; your job instead is to make them feel right. In fact, if you notice the other person repeatedly agitating to speak, keep your sentences short and leave frequent pauses for them to jump in.
People really do love to hear themselves talk. The more you let them speak, the more they will like you....
Master listeners know one extra trick, one simple but extraordinarily effective habit that will make people feel truly listened to and understood: they pause before they answer.....
When someone has spoken, see if you can let your facial expression react first, showing that you're absorbing what they've just said and giving their brilliant statement the consideration it deserves. Only then, after about two seconds, do you answer. The sequence goes like this:
- They finish their sentence - Your face absorbs - Your face reacts - Then, and only then, you answer
Now, I'm not saying this is easy. It takes confidence to bear silence, both because of the awkwardness you may feel and because of the uncertainty of not knowing what they're thinking during those two seconds. But it's worth it....
Great listening skills will give you presence - the foundation of charisma - and boost any charisma style.
1. "Thanks for posting this, this is informative and good advice" In response to Reply # 0
The info about the benefits of self-compassion versus self-esteem.
I've struggles with assertiveness for much of my life and for much of that time I had a love / hate relationship with self-confidence. When I felt self-confident, many people were put off and when I lacked confidence I didn't perform very well in school and in friendships. Trying to incorporate a concerted effort to show compassion has helped my self-esteem but not because I function better in life, but because I value and appreciate myself, flaws, hang-ups, immaturity and all of the positive aspects of my personality.
The description of the observed benefits strengthens my motivation to deepen my love for myself in healthy ways.
and choosing the right charisma based on your personality (what "fits" you, etc.)
From looking at the table of contents, I'm not sure of how much I would apply most of what the book is offering as it applies to developing a "charisma style" suitable for me, but....the info I extracted from the book for the OP seemed very worthwhile to share with OKP.
Richard B. Joelson DSW, LCSW Richard B. Joelson DSW, LCSW
Moments That Matter
Reacting and Responding
The difference between the two and the impact they have on our lives.
Posted Jan 16, 2018
The distinction between reacting and responding is an important one and one I have emphasized in my psychotherapy and counseling practice. As far as I am concerned, there is a significant—and, at times, very influential—difference between the two. Responding can be defined as showing a favorable reaction. Reacting, on the other hand, means acting in opposition to a force or influence. Let me illustrate what I believe to be the difference and how it affects us in everyday life.
A reaction may occur within the space of seconds. Since it is usually immediate, it is often without any thought or deliberation, and may, therefore, not be the optimal way in which an individual would have liked or preferred to handle a situation. Reactions are, however, normal and expected. Problems arise when the immediacy of a reaction—as opposed to a response—causes interpersonal difficulties for the reacting individual. Reactions are often emotionally charged and, therefore, tend to be problematic, especially when they may be associated with anger. Those things that we all sometimes say that we wish we could take back are probably reactions, rather than responses.
Responses are typically the outcome of thoughtfulness, reflection, and consideration of the relevant factors, and they are often carefully formulated and well-presented. Responses are not usually those things that we “shoot from the hip,” but offer with care, tolerance for differences, and respect for those with whom we interact.
Pamela and Eric have been in couples counseling 10 months and are learning to contain their tendency to react, something that has seriously impaired their relationship, and to respond to each other instead. This has not been easy for two individuals with acknowledged difficulties with anger and impulsivity. In a recent counseling session, Pamela told Eric that she would like the two of them to plan a vacation, the first one in over four years. Eric had an explosive reaction to his wife’s suggestion: “How can you suggest such a dumb thing when you know we’re having financial problems?” He followed this with an emphatic “Absolutely not!” Pamela, not surprisingly, felt attacked and bullied and counterattacked Eric by saying, “It’s your fault that we are having money problems. If you were a better provider, we could take vacations like our other friends!” Perhaps because of their gains in nearly one year of treatment, both of them were able to stop the exchange before it got any worse, and use the session to examine what had just occurred and to express their regrets at having insulted and hurt each other. Since “react” and “respond” had become part of their emotional vocabulary, Eric apologized to his wife, wished that he could have responded rather than reacted, and examined the reasons why he handled Pamela’s suggestion the way he did. Pamela wished that she had been able to respond to Eric’s provocative reaction by not escalating matters with a provocative reaction of her own.
I had Pamela and Eric “replay the scene,” this time demonstrating how they would have liked to respond to each other. This afforded them an opportunity to actually experience a better way of handling matters with each other, rather than just a wish that they had been able to do so the first time around.
When people who are struggling with being too reactive recognize the damage it can do and start to deliberately formulate thoughtful responses, rather than impulsive reactions, their interactions begin to reflect a higher degree of emotional competency. As a result, they live with much less regret and lessen the need to repair the damage to their relationships with others.
6. "Like most simple things, this is about as hard as it is easy to say" In response to Reply # 5
It takes a lot of humility and grace to feel a prick of anger or frustration but 'respond' in a way that's constructively resolving the conflict. In the thick of an argument or battle, it's hard to detach from that flash of hurt and think of the other person first before responding.
I don't lash out usually, but I tend to shut down or stifle my feelings as a reaction. Growing in self-awareness and self-understanding has helped with relating to anger or irritation in a way that's respectful of other person but honoring my feelings at the same time.
Sometimes holding space is the most giving and transformative move you can make.
Posted Feb 12, 2018
I once worked with a client who sought therapy in the midst of an uncomfortable conflict; she came to me to help her think and feel her way through her conundrum and find some resolution. During our first session together, this bright, confident woman openly shared her struggle with me. She explained that she was in a monogamous relationship with her high school sweetheart but recently found herself falling in love with someone who worked in her office building. Although she loved her partner dearly, she was intrigued by the “newness” of this other man.
When she arrived for the first session, this client appeared distraught and dejected, and she described the way she was feeling in more or less the same way. I asked her if she had talked about what she was experiencing with anyone else. She said she told two of her girlfriends, both of whom admonished her for being unfaithful and urged her to stop talking to the other man. She also spoke with her older sister, who suggested that she leave her partner, because “it isn’t natural to be with the same person for so long.”
At the end of the session, the client thanked me enthusiastically and told me she had found our time together to be profoundly helpful. I reminded her that I didn’t do much, and she acknowledged it. She said, “That’s mostly why it helped. You were the first person who just sat with me and let me sort through it out loud. I think all I really needed was to be able to come to my own conclusion, and you made it possible for me to do that.” What she said next was, for me, quite significant: “Sometimes it’s a person’s presence that makes all the difference.” I couldn’t agree with her more.
We live in divisive times, which complicates and challenges our capacity to communicate clearly and compassionately with each other. It’s all too easy to get so committed to one way of looking at things that any other view becomes impossible to acknowledge, let alone accept. This makes for interactions that are guarded, at best, and destructive, at worst. Whether discussing politics or conversing over cocktails about the stories of our lives, we all run the risk of letting our judgments interfere with our ability to connect with others—even if those so-called others are people we know and love.
When my client appreciated my being present with her, I felt both gratified and grateful. It served to remind me of why I first felt called to this work, and it affirmed my own belief in the power of presence. Many people have the experience of holding back from expressing themselves or vocalizing whatever they’re going through out of fear that they’ll be criticized or ostracized. Unfortunately, this fear often stems from past experience, as it isn’t uncommon for people to have difficulty responding with curiosity and care when what they’re hearing doesn’t jibe with their personal beliefs.
I think that most people—whatever their preferences or principles might be—can get behind the notion that the world would benefit from more peace and understanding. But regardless of how monumental it might seem to accomplish that, it starts in small and simple ways. It starts with you and me, right here and now. Even the smallest and subtlest interactions can make a world of difference; added together, they’ll make the world different.
I invite you to consider how you can begin to get intentional about the way you show up in the interpersonal encounters of your daily life. Here are some ideas to support your efforts to cultivate a more supportive presence.
It’s not always what you say. Sometimes it’s how you say it, and other times, it’s what you don’t say that matters most. Be as aware of the ways in which you communicate—through your tone, timing, and body language, for example—as you are of the words you use. And remember that you don’t have to speak to be beneficial. By being willing to keep company with someone who needs it, you’re already making a remarkable difference.
Get curious. As I’ve written here before, curiosity is the antidote to many of the damaging ways we might be inclined to treat one another. When someone is sharing anything with you, they’re demonstrating some degree of courage and vulnerability. When you can lean in with curiosity rather than pull back in fear or disgust, you allow the person to feel seen, heard, and understood. That goes a long way.
Practice genuine listening. Listen to understand, rather than to respond. When it comes to being a good listener, most people have room for improvement. Sure, it can be difficult to set aside whatever you might want to say in order to really listen to what another person is saying to you. But focusing on forming a response to what you’re hearing makes it so that you’re not really receiving what’s being shared with you—and that comes across. Listening, like most things, is a skill that can be acquired and refined with practice. Challenge yourself to become fully immersed in the act of listening, trusting all the while that your chance to speak will come, and other people’s willingness to listen will improve as a function of your having been so fully present for them.
You can’t go wrong with kindness. At the end of the day, what most people want is to be treated with respect and understanding. You don’t have to be the most articulate person in the world to be a source of tremendous support to other people. All you have to be is willing enough to keep people company and radiate warmth and kindness while you do it. If you’ve ever gone through something difficult, you know how much another person’s kindness can contribute to turning things around. Be that person for others.
Concern yourself less with whether you agree or disagree and more with how the exchange transpires. In our current social context, voicing an opinion and seeking to be right often seems more important than connecting with other people and exchanging ideas. The truth is, we don’t always have to agree in order to keep good company with each other. In fact, there’s tremendous value in viewing things differently; it creates opportunities for learning and growth. But that can only happen if both people mind their presence and show up to the exchange with a willingness to be curious, compassionate, collegial, and kind.
It can be easy to get discouraged by the state of human affairs. It might be tempting to lose hope or become hardened to others, choosing separation over connection. But I urge you to have the fortitude to be a source of light in the world. Take small but significant actions toward becoming more present for others—as well as for yourself—and start to watch your interactions transform in surprising and inspiring new ways.
When someone comes for help, don’t hand out a to do list
Posted Apr 30, 2018
Human beings. What are we going to do with ourselves? We are born fixers. And I mean literally, born, as in since the dawn of time. When there were cracks in those cave walls, you can be sure we were there with our primitive spackling tools to patch them right up. Well, OK, home improvement was not quite the priority on the honey-do list, what with the more immediate issues—predatory birds, lions, poisonous snakes, the occasional out of hand neighbor. The kinds of things we had to fix back in the day were life and death. And thus it was in that milieu of danger at every turn that our inner alarm system—our fight-or-flight responsiveness to threat—developed. So while we have the amygdala, the C.O.O. of the brain’s alarm system, to thank for bringing us to this day there’s a bit more she wrote. Sensitivity (reading the fine print of a situation) is not the amygdala’s strong suit. So when we find ourselves feeling threatened not by a large bird with claws, but none other than our adult daughter standing before us upset about a non-large bird issue like, maybe, just for the sake of argument…having a stressful situation at work, it’s the amygdala showing up first that instantly makes us feel like our child’s distress is a fire to put out. In those moments that call for empathy, compassion and soothing, the amygdala shouting fire! is more of the problem than the solution.
I know this well. As an anxiety therapist, I speak to patients all day about ways to override and reset the amygdala when the proverbial snake turns out to be a harmless stick. And though I try to live by what I teach, there are those moments where my blindspots are pointed out to me. Like by my daughter and the aforementioned situation at her job, right away I picked up my spackler and got to work. I jumped in with all the different ways my daughter might look at the situation, all the different things she could do to make it better. In fact, I had so much to say about her situation, I’m not sure she could get a word in edgewise. What she wanted, in her words, was empathy, period, and I handed her a to do list. Gotcha.
Whether we are talking to our children, our coworkers, our partners, even ourselves, I think my daughter hit the nail on the head. When we are upset we want empathy, period. Not the laundry list of things we need, could, or should do. Not yet, and maybe not ever. At the very least we need to pause and listen, the longer the better, before we ask if those spackling tools that our primitive instincts are tapping behind our backs are actually being requested.
How do we do this? How do we tell our amygdalas to send the fire trucks back to the station? How do we turn off our revving engines running circles around an unsuspecting troubled person who has come to us for comfort, but is getting more upset by our (even with a Ph.D. in psychology) bungled response? What’s really the fire? We need to take charge of our own discomfort with someone else’s discomfort and realize our desire to solve things or to make invisible the things we can’t solve is…. drumroll please… our own problem—not the other person’s. The person who is in need of soothing was not in emergency mode until they were inundated with our to-do list for them. Not exactly what we were going for. If we as helpers can punch in the security code of our own amygdalas, do an override, take a breath, and remind ourselves that what is needed from us is not the brave slaying of dragons and such, but sometimes the braver offering of compassionate words or simply saying “yes—that sounds hard,” or “I’m sorry that’s happening,” or EVEN: “Tell me more about it” (because our to do list essentially conveys: tell me less) we will be a different kind of hero. We are protecting ourselves and each other from our desire to fix and in so doing, will find a place where understanding ripples out and smooths the way for all of us.
And when each of us forgets about this idea, which we inevitably will given our jumpy amygdalas, let’s just agree to turn to each other and say, “Empathy, period, please!” Or… if you prefer… “Hold the spackler, please.” Namaste.