Olivia Fox Cabane on Charisma
By Arnold Kling
She is the author of The Charisma Myth, a self-help book that I am in the middle of reading. Before you buy it (and before you comment on this post), I recommend watching this video, evidently from a talk given at Google (skip the guy doing the intro, which lasts about 1-1/2 minutes).
So far, my favorite tip in the book is to get over your anger over something that someone did to you by mentally composing a detailed letter of apology from that person to you. Have the letter say exactly what you would like to hear. If you want to feel even more relief, type up the letter.
I would summarize the book as follows.
i. People with charisma project presence, power, and warmth.
ii. You can learn to project these qualities using the tools of method acting. Use visualizations and the like to neutralize feelings of insecurity, doubt, anxiety, and hostility. Stimulate in yourself feelings of serenity, confidence, and compassion.
iii. The author offers examples (like the apology letter) of simple tricks for this sort of method acting.
My overall reaction is this:
1. If you project below-average presence, power, and warmth, then I recommend considering some of her ideas.
2. The self-help book I wish people would read is “How to recognize when you are being seduced by charisma and dial down your response.” I think that a reader can find some of that information in this book, although it is not presented with that purpose in mind.
3. I am particularly troubled by political charisma. Cabane frequently invokes Bill Clinton as an example. In the comments, please spare us your opinion of Clinton and talk about something else instead. Suffice to say that nearly everyone concedes that he is charismatic, but for some people he epitomizes “fake sincerity.”
One problem is that if political success (or success in climbing the executive ladder) requires charisma, and charisma requires learning to tune out signals that come from self-doubt and anxiety….well, you can see where that might lead to unfortunate results. Better that charismatic people try starting new businesses than have them running, say, large financial institutions or government agencies.