Do people light up when they see you come into a room? Or do you feel like no one sees you at all?
If you’re not a naturally charismatic or outgoing person, it can feel like that is just not in the cards for you. However, it is actually possible to teach yourself how to be charismatic and likable, just by learning how other people think. It is just a matter of practice.
When we think of super charismatic or likable people, we tend to think about how amazing they are. But if you break down what these charismatic people are really doing — how they make you think they are so amazing — what they are really doing is cultivating that feeling in you. They are making you feel happy just for being around them.
It’s not about being the loudest or funniest or most inspiring person in the room. It isn’t about you at all. It is about making everyone else feel like THEY are the best, most interesting person you’ve met all day.
The secret to charisma is this: it’s about making other people feel awesome.
Here are several steps — big and small — that you can use to be more charismatic and likable (even if you’re shy or awkward).
Use the other person’s name
In his timeless book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie wrote, ‘“A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
And it is true. Using people’s names is an incredibly effective way to connect with them and improve your relationship with them. It might seem too simple to work, but our names get to the heart of who we are — they are literally “who we are” — and hearing our name said back to us taps into a primal need to feel connected and valued.
When you remember someone’s name, it shows that you respect them and consider them important. It is a simple way to show courtesy and let them know that you see them — something that none of us can ever feel often enough.
We have all met people before who seems to refuse to remember us. Even after telling them our name over the course of multiple meetings, they treat us like a stranger. It makes you feel terrible, and definitely doesn’t make you want to get to know that person better.
One of the best things about using someone’s name is that it is subtle and easy to insert into your normal speech patterns; if you’re shy, you don’t have to go out of your way to impress someone. Simply using their name when you see them — saying “Hello, Kate!” instead of just “Hello” — will tap into positive feelings towards you.
This is also a great way to remember people’s names, if you are someone who struggles with that. If you’re at an event meeting lots of people, repeating their names back to them as you hear them will help the names to stick in your mind far better than just hearing them will.
Give people your full attention
If you’re reading this article because you’re shy and have trouble standing out in a room, then this tip is great news for you: one of the best ways to be more likable is actually to talk less and listen more.
If you struggle to know what to say to people, then try focusing on something that you can do – listen! The greatest gift that you can give someone is your undivided attention.
Think about how many interactions you have every day where you and/or the other person are not really listening to each other. There are so many people who view conversations as simply “waiting for their turn to talk” or who can’t look up from their phone long enough to let you finish a complete sentence.
Now think about how it feels when someone is really engaged with what you are saying. They are nodding, making eye contact, and smiling. They are asking relevant questions that invite you to explain even more. That is one of the best feelings in the world.
Be that person for other people. They will not soon forget it.
Pay attention to your external appearance
Our brains have evolved over thousands of years to make split-second decisions to keep us safe. When we lived in the wild, we had to be able to look at a person or situation and instantly know if it was dangerous or not, in order to survive.
Nowadays, we don’t need these skills as desperately as we once did — but we still have them, and our brains are constantly using them.
As a result, we cannot help but judge people based on instant first impressions. Before you even have a chance to open your mouth, the other person’s brain has already started making assessments and assumptions about you.
Is the image that you’re projecting one that is making a good impression?
Of course, we all know that external features are only part of the story. The more you get to know someone, the more completely they will see you. However, that takes time, and first impressions are hard to shake until the other person knows you well.
So take a look at how you are presenting yourself to the world.
Do you dress appropriately for situations? Do you smile and make eye contact when you meet a new person? How is your posture? Does your resting face look calm and happy, or do you look stressed, sad, or anxious? If you saw yourself across the room, what would you think?
It might be worth it to do a self-assessment and make some changes if you don’t think you’re making the best possible visual first impression. It can change much more than you think when it comes to the success of your interactions and relationships.
Be generous and do favors for people
We all appreciate people who help us get the things we want from life. Whether it’s really helpful advice on a project or just letting us have the last slice of pizza, we cannot help but develop positive associations with people who are generous and helpful.
Our brains are well-versed in the idea of reciprocity. When someone does something for us, it makes us want to do something for them. This desire for reciprocity happens subconsciously, without our control.
The scale of the favor doesn’t matter. Loaning someone a book has the same value of creating reciprocity as something much bigger.
So if you are looking for a way to make an impact on people and become their ally, it could be as simple as looking for ways to do them a favor. How can you give someone exactly what they need?
When you share, people want to share with you. And when you have a reputation for generosity, people want to know you and be around you. Who wouldn’t? Cultivate a reputation as someone who helps other people succeed, and you will find many more people invested in your success in return.
Be prepared for conversations
If I have to interact with someone when I’m not expecting it, the conversation usually gets awkward FAST. I am just not good at thinking on my feet in social situations, and so as I struggle to find something to say, I can end up coming off as not very likable or charismatic.
Confidence is critical for making a good impression on other people, particularly in a professional setting. So how can you exude confidence even if you’re not naturally a great conversationalist?
You fake it until you make it.
One of the best ways to feel confident in a conversation is to have some ideas for what to talk about with the other person. So why not prepare?
If you’re going to a specific event, try formulating some interesting questions that you can ask people to spark a conversation. You could ask them who their favorite speaker was, or which talks they think you should definitely go to, or what their biggest takeaway from the event so far as been.
For general daily conversation with people like coworkers and new acquaintances, keep a supply of questions in your back pocket for when you need them. You can ask anything, like if they have vacations planned for this year or what projects they are working on at work.
The questions should skew positive — try to avoid topics that would lead to complaining or commiserating, since you want them to remember you for making them feel good, not stressed or feeling bad about gossiping. The key really is to be prepared with topics they can talk about and feel excited about, and that you can give a genuinely interested ear to.
Look for common ground and affirm the other person’s perspective
Remember how charisma is about making other people feel great? Well, everyone loves hearing the word “yes” and feeling like they are truly being understood by someone else.
Finding common ground is a fantastic way to establish trust and rapport with someone. It makes sense, right? When you find someone who loves the same TV show or blog as you, you know how the tone of a conversation can instantly change from formal and stilted to fun and exciting. It’s like creating instant intimacy with someone; having something in common makes you see this person in a new way, as a friend or ally.
This is possible to do even with people who you don’t have much in common with, though. Don’t give up on someone just because you’re having trouble connecting with them. (Those are actually the most important people to make an effort with!)
Instead, get proactive about finding things you can agree with them on. When you find something, make eye contact, smile, and nod. Say “yes” or “me too”, and encourage them to continue. Ask a followup question or share a related story of your own.
Even if it’s something small, getting a note of encouragement and connection from you will help them to see you as a friend and someone they can trust because, even in one small way, you are on the same team now.
Apologize quickly when you are wrong
This last one can completely change your life and the way that people see you.
If you are working as part of a team, it is inevitable that problems will arise. The way you choose to handle the hard parts of life will speak volumes about the kind of person that you are — and how people feel about working with you.
We all come to work to do our best. No one shows up wanting to make a mistake or cause problems for other people. That is why it can be so hard for people to admit fault or apologize for mistakes at work — we all want to be seen as our best, and admitting fault feels like giving up our power or the success we want to have.
But showing that you can acknowledge your mistakes, be humble, and work quickly towards a better solution will make you a superstar. It will make you a leader, and someone who everyone else wants to work with.
Apologize sincerely. Use phrases like:
- “That was my mistake.”
- “I’m so sorry about that — it was totally my fault.”
- “I am really sorry about ___.”
It’s a little scary to be so straightforward about admitting fault, but you know what? The other person will appreciate it.
Be open to letting them express their frustrations. (But often, a real, authentic apology will be all the other person really wanted and they won’t feel the need to vent to you anymore.)
Don’t try to explain it, and don’t try to rope in other people who were also at fault. Even if you weren’t the only one at fault, it shows leadership and strength to simply accept responsibility and work towards solutions.
Once you feel the other person has heard and accepted your apology, it is time to get to work.
This is not time to feel sorry for yourself; actions speak louder than words. Show how amazing you are by moving towards better solutions and being clear about how you will keep this kind of problem from ever happening again.
Being more likable is possible — you can become some that everyone wants to be around!
When you start to look at yourself through other people’s eyes, it will suddenly become so much easier to be a likable and charismatic person. Because that is truly all that those things are — being someone who is interested in other people and making them feel good when they are around you!
If you’ve tried any of the strategies in this post, let us know! We want to help you succeed and feel like the most amazing version of you possible.