In my career, I can say that I have never met a big star who didn’t possess the quality of charisma. From Jessica Lange to George Clooney to Bradley Cooper and many in between, there is just something effortlessly compelling and fascinating going on with these charismatic people. They appear to walk a few inches above the ground and have a sparkle in their eyes that seems almost magical.
Assuming that we’d all like to share a bit of this magic, the question becomes: Can charisma be learned? It is certainly up for debate, and I don’t profess to know the answer. However, I do know that one of the most bewitching traits of charismatic people is their ability to make whoever they are talking to feel special and important – like they’re the only person that matters – and that can be learned.
For many people, having half of their attention on the person in front of them is a victory. You know these people. They’re animated and alive enough when they’re talking to you, but quickly go dead behind the eyes when you’re talking to them. They have checked out and are thinking about what’s for dinner, or who they’re going to see later and how fascinated that person will be by what they have to say. You feel like you’re making no impression because you’re not. Like playing handball against curtains, everything you’re putting out there just dies. This is depressingly common.
Charismatic people pay attention. They look you in the eye and listen, taking in what you’re saying mentally, emotionally, and physically. They aren’t formulating their next sentence; they’re too busy absorbing yours. They make you feel validated and worthy and you want to be around them as much as possible.
So try this. Pick a day coming up and commit to listening well and deeply to everyone you come in contact with. Try to keep all of your energy flowing outward to them and your mind clear of any opinions or judgments. Listen to the words they’re saying, but don’t stop there. Listen for the meaning behind the words. Are they just repeating their usual script or really telling the truth? Look behind their eyes and see if you can see the real cause of their anger, their fear, and their joy. This is much harder than it seems, as our minds are used to contending with hundreds of thoughts at once, but it can be done if you commit. Really look, listen, and think of the other person exclusively. Listen with the pure intention of knowing them in a caring, meaningful way – and then do it again and again.
In developing this habit of empathetic listening and exhibiting undivided attention, you are cultivating the quality of charisma. People will be drawn to you because you make them feel cared for and special. And here’s the best part. When your focus is entirely on another person, you become your best self: generous, compassionate, and loving – a genuinely charismatic person.
Craig Wallace is the creator and award-winning teacher of The Wallace Audition Technique, an audition preparation system that he developed based on his years of experience as a studio executive, talent agent and casting consultant. In his 14 years of teaching, he has seen the careers of hundreds of his students take off. He is also the author of the best-selling book, “The Best of You – Winning Auditions Your Way.”
Craig is currently teaching his audition technique classes and his Meditation for Actors classes in Santa Monica, CA. For more information visit www.wallaceauditiontechnique.com.