Charisma is not something you get. It’s something you learn, practice, and hone over time. These quick tips will help you polish your presence and be more charismatic.
When I was eight years old, I went to summer camp. I loved it. Softball, archery, swimming, volleyball, nighttime campfires and giggles—lots and lots of giggles. It was the most fun an active social child could imagine.
Yet, even more memorable are the friendships I made every summer. So, when summer ended and the camp season was part of the past, I was always so sad that I would no longer see my special friends every day.
That idyllic childhood feeling has been long forgotten, until now.
It started on a court. Four women from different walks of life who met playing a sport together. At first, it was simply a game with women who couldn’t be more different. Brenda doesn’t hold back. She tells it like it is and can inadvertently offend, but she’s down to earth and I instantly liked her. Sally is smart and quite accomplished yet warm, friendly and extremely approachable. We admired each other and instantly bonded. Cathy is kind, genuine and doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. We had some friends in common and immediately connected. The four of us have different religions, political affiliations and viewpoints but it didn’t matter.
As summer moved on, we began joking and teasing each other. We noticed Cathy was getting tougher and told her Brenda must be rubbing off on her. On the court, we started talking about our families and lives before the four of us met, sometimes forgetting we were supposed to be playing and not talking. We began looking forward to seeing each other. Like camp, not only did we share common interests, but we giggled like school kids, sometimes so hysterically that we were practically doubled over, unable to catch our breath. Nighttime campfires of my youth turned into happy hours and dinner parties of adulthood.
We began texting several times a day. We planned trips to the Jersey shore around each other’s schedules. We began to confide and trust in each other. Like summer camp, we looked forward to being together.
The game that brought us together became far more than a game. When one of us didn’t feel good or didn’t show up to play, we worried. When Cathy’s mom was hospitalized, we checked in with her every day. We celebrated each other’s accomplishments and shared each other’s life milestones. Without saying it, each of us knew we had each other’s backs.
So, when Labor Day arrived and we had to return to our respective homes in different states, we hugged and promised to make plans. Brenda texted how grateful she was to have us in her lives and thanked us for helping her make it through tough COVID times. Sally called us a true sisterhood and Cathy said even though we haven’t known each other that long, she felt a strong connection to all of us. I was surprised to feel that long forgotten childhood melancholy that the unofficial end of summer used to bring.
As a happy adult with fulfilling relationships and lots of friends, perhaps that sounds odd, but consider this. People enter our lives at different times for different reasons. I often joke that I don’t want more friends. However, what if I really embraced that attitude? I would have missed out on unique connections with three wonderful women who have brightened my life.
Often in business, we focus on proving ourselves, being our best and trying to impress others. What if we could just remember what it felt like to be eight and let that authentic child shine through? An eight year old lives in the moment. An eight year old doesn’t care where you live, what religion you practice or what political party your family affiliates with. They are still slightly new and fresh. They arrive with a clean slate and infectious smiles that make you want to be around them.
When the four of us are together, sometimes I feel like I’m eight all over again. Like that eight year old, I’m already looking forward to next summer.
My meeting with two women I had never met was all set. Yet, when I arrived at the designated spot, introduced myself with a smile and said nice to meet you, one of the women turned her back toward me and ignored my greeting. I asked her if something was wrong, to which she waived the back of her hand at me as if she was waiving me away. So, I asked again.
“I’ve never met you before, yet it seems you have an issue with me, have I done something to offend you?” This time she looked right past me, walked away and over her shoulder said, “let’s just begin.”
Not sure what she was irritated about, I looked at the other woman who shrugged and then silently mouthed, “she didn’t like your text, but she’s always like this.”
Ah, the text! When we were trying to schedule the meeting at a time of her choice, I explained that the owners of the facility where we were meeting didn’t want us to arrive as early as she wanted to be there. She responded that she knows the hours of operation, doesn’t need me to tell her what to do and furthermore, she had gotten permission to arrive whenever she wants. I asked who gave her that permission and she curtly replied, “will you be there at this time or not?” Irritated and a little confused at her condescending dismissive tone, I simply said “okay” and stopped texting.
While some people are unintentionally dismissive, others very knowingly dismiss what you say. They are patronizing and uninterested in your thoughts or feelings. Perhaps trying to make you appear inferior makes them feel superior especially if they can do it in front of other people like a lion leading the pack.
I’m sure you’ve met these people at work. They can be hurtful, embarrassing and make you feel irrelevant. If you’re like me, your natural instinct might be to lash out and let them have it, but then you are stooping to their level. Furthermore, if you do that, they will find a way to blame you and tell others what a jerk you are.
Instead, consider the following five approaches:
While easier said than done, take a breath to stay calm. Remain friendly and nice. Even if they continue to dismiss you, you can take comfort knowing that you remained professional.
Calling someone out on their behavior is not the same thing as blasting them. If this type of behavior continues, consider telling them what is offensive and calmly ask them to stop. If it remains a problem, you may need to seek help from a manager or human resources.
Sometimes, what seems rude to you might be a cultural difference. The person I interacted with was from another country. Perhaps she thinks she is being direct and doesn’t realize how her words are perceived. The same is true when Americans travel to other countries. For example, we are used to requesting adjustments when we order meals. In some countries, that is considered an insult to the chef.
If you’ve tried to de-escalate a situation and find out what is bugging this person without success, then it may be best to just walk away. A dismissive person has no ammunition if there is no one to aim it at.
Remember that nonverbal communication is as important as what you actually say. If you do call someone out or walk away, be careful not to use negative or disapproving gestures such as rolling your eyes, crossing your arms or leaning too far into someone’s space. It’s also important to look them in the eye.
While you can’t always change someone’s behavior, you can change the way you react to it. It’s so easy to let a dismissive person put you on the defensive. However, if you handle their inappropriate actions appropriately, you will come across as professional and self-assured. They may not notice, but others will and respect you for it.
Karen Friedman Enterprises helps professionals combine style and expertise to better engage, command attention, minimize mistakes, convey vision and project leadership presence when communicating with key listeners and decision makers.