13 Top Personality Traits of Charismatic People (and how to learn them)
People with charismatic personalities all embody a number of simple, but incredibly effective traits. Some people naturally have a charismatic personality. But, like any skill, it’s something that anybody can learn.
Learning to have a charismatic personality doesn’t mean changing who you are or being fake. As you’ll learn below, people can easily spot when you’re faking your interaction with them. It simply means improving the way you present yourself to others, just like you would improve your presentation skills to help people better understand your point in a meeting. In this guide, I’ll show you 17 personality traits of charismatic people, and how you can learn them.
Presence is the trait of focusing all your attention on the people and situation going on around you. You never see people with a charismatic personality get lost in their own mind. They’re fully engaged with the person they’re talking to: focusing on what they’re saying and responding thoughtfully to it, instead of thinking about what they’re going to say next.
Why presence is an important charismatic personality trait
Have you ever been talking with someone and felt that they were only half-listening to you?
How did it make you feel?
Annoyed? Maybe even unworthy? Like you were lacking something essential?
The paradoxical thing about people with charismatic personalities is that they’re not focused on making themselves look impressive. They care about making the other person feel good about themselves.
The way you’re perceived by others is based on the way you make them feel. If you make them feel good about themselves, then that’s the feeling they’ll remember you by. And if you make them feel bad or unworthy of your attention, then that’s how they’ll feel about you.
Presence is where this begins. When you are present, paying attention to who you’re talking with, they’ll feel that you care about them, and that you’re a genuine, authentic person.
Warmth is the perception of the goodwill you have towards others. Charismatic people are perceived by others as being caring and willing to positively impact the world around them. The people you’re around will determine your warmth based on how likely you are to use your power in their favor.
Why warmth is important for charisma
You need warmth to balance power (see trait 3 below). If you’re perceived as powerful, you can seem impressive to others, but without warmth you can come off as imposing, arrogant or cold.
People evaluate your level of warmth through your behavior, body language and facial expressions. You can show warmth by smiling and holding eye contact when you’re speaking with someone. Both of those behaviors will tell the other person that you care about them and you’re happy to be with them.
Charismatic people who have the power personality trait are perceived to have the ability to affect the world around us. We perceive this through the influence and authority they have over other, their wealth, social status, intelligence, expertise and sheer physical strength.
Why power is an important for charismatic personality trait
You need power to balance warmth. If you’re a nice, warm person, but don’t possess any power, you can be perceived as overeager, or desperate to make friends and please people, which isn’t charismatic.
3 ways you can present power to others:
- Appearance: You can show power by looking at the clothing your audience wears and choosing the upper end. This will make them see that you’re similar to them, and that you have high status within their group
- How other people react to you: If people give you their attention and respect, others will take notice of this and follow suit. One way to get others to do this on your first meeting is to approach with confidence (see trait 7 for more details).
- Body language: We don’t have the time or resources to run background checks on everyone we meet. So If you carry yourself with powerful body language, then people will subconsciously believe that you have power (see trait 14 for more details on charismatic body language.
People with charismatic personalities give off a feeling of positivity and optimism. No charismatic person is cynical or negative about the world. They aren’t naive, they simple choose to feel positive about their world, because they feel like they have the ability to control it.
How do you get into a positive mental state AND present that to others around you? There’s one simple technique: smile.
Smiling has a powerful affect on yourself and others around you.
How smiling affects you
Even if you’re unhappy, studies show that making yourself smile actually makes your brain happier. Smiling activates the release of neuropeptides, feel-good-messengers that work to crush stress in your brain. When a smile comes across your face; dopamine, endorphins and serotonin are all released into your bloodstream, helping your body relax, and lowering your heart rate and blood pressure.
How smiling affects those around you
In a Swedish study, people were shown pictures of different emotions: joy, anger, fear, and surprise. When the picture of a person smiling was shown, researchers asked participants to frown. But what happened instead was that people’s facial expressions directly to imitated what they saw in the picture. It took conscious effort to turn their smile into a frown. So if you’re smiling at someone, they likely won’t be able to help but smile back at you.
5. Broad Social Comfort Zone
Charismatic people are comfortable in practically every social situation: meeting strangers, speaking in groups, even being stuck on elevators. Most people, though, have fairly small social comfort zones, and may get uncomfortable doing something as simple as making eye contact with others. But it’s something you need to master to present a charismatic personality to others. If you act comfortably around others, then they’ll feel comfortable around you and want to be with you.
4 Exercises to broaden your Social Comfort Zone
- Hold eye contact with while interacting with someone the entire time
- Make eye contact and smile at strangers in public
- Move physically closer to people than normal in situations like elevators, public transit, and waiting for a crosswalk signal
- Strike up a conversation with a stranger by asking their opinion on something, such as asking what drink they would recommend in the lineup at Starbucks
These will help you to get comfortable with common social situations. And when you want to turn on your charismatic personality, you’ll have already built up an immunity to any natural discomfort.
6. Confident Mental State
If people with charismatic personalities have a superpower, it’s this: the ability to crush their self-doubt. This is the biggest thing I see people suffer from when trying to be charismatic: They simply doubt their ability to succeed. They doubt their ability to do something, or fear that there is something essential they lack, that everyone else has – that they’re just not good enough, and there’s nothing we they do about it. Memories of past failures, humiliations and inadequacies can all rise up within us to cause this.
But you do have the ability to crush your self-doubt. Here’s the simple mental exercise I like to use to do it:
6-Step Exercise to Crush Self-doubt
If I’m ever feeling anxious, upset or filled with self-doubt, I do this 6-step exercise to get myself into a charismatic mental state:
- Sit in a comfortable chair and alleviate any physical discomfort
- Dedramatize: Zoom out to 10,000 feet and realize you are just one small person moving around a room, in a building, in a city – and that this sensation is having no impact on the world. No one knows about it but you.
- Destigmatize: Remember that this feeling of self-doubt has happened to all the people you admire – even the most confident and successful people. This will help you from feeling like this is something shameful that only you are affected by.
- Neutralize Negativity: Remember that your perception of events is not always correct. We tend to focus on the negative aspects, while ignoring all of the positives, which may not accurately reflect the reality of our situation.
- Rewrite Reality: Imagine that the reason another person did something that caused our self-doubt is doing something is not due to ill will, but because they don’t understand, they are doing their best, or they are in an extremely stressful or emergency situation
- Big Brother Technique: Visualize someone you admire or look up to telling you it’s OK, and that everything will work out (see trait 16 for the full Big Brother Technique)
7. Approach with purpose
If you’re at a social event and you see someone who looks approachable (see below), you don’t want to look like you’re nervously tip-toeing over to them. It will make you look anxious, and that will make the other person feel anxious as well.
Instead, approach with a steady, purposeful stride. Visualize an actor who has just won an Oscar and is walking up to the stage to accept their award: They’re walking with purpose, confidence and elation. They don’t appear aggressive, but you can tell from their walk that they’re important. Your eyes are naturally drawn to a person like that. And it will subconsciously make the other person feel good that they’re who you chose to speak with.
How to tell who is approachable
There’s nothing worse than accidentally approaching a person or group and feeling like you interrupted them. To avoid this, look for people to approach who are exhibiting the following traits:
- Intermittent Conversation Groups: If you’re approaching a group, you want to make your entrance when there’s a break in the conversation – interrupting someone to introduce yourself will put you in a negative light. Look for groups who are standing a bit farther apart – this signals that they are not too engaged to let another person join, and you won’t have to push someone aside to enter. Watch them for a minute or two before you approach to see if they are leaving ample breaks in their conversation, and, if they are, time your approach for when you expect there to be a pause.
- Open individual: An individual person is usually an easier bet to approach – since they’re not actively in a conversation with anyone that you’ll be interrupting. But before you do, watch for a couple things: Are they glued to their phone? If so, they may be alone because they are engaged in a text conversation, or waiting for a phone call. If so, this person isn’t approachable. Do they look like they are trying to hide themselves by looking down or cross their arms? If so, they may not be interested in speaking to someone, or may be waiting for someone else. Instead, look for people who have their eyes up and looking at others. These are the people who, just like you, are looking for a conversation.
8. Assume others have positive intent
Have you ever seen a charismatic person get upset with someone else? Or get into a petty argument over a snide remark? The answer is most likely no. Charismatic people know that getting offended and saying combative things will make you look like you get easily offended and can’t keep cool under pressure. And one of the reasons we’re attracted to charismatic people is that we feel like they’ll always keep cool, which allows us to feel this way as well.
If you ever feel like someone is attacking you or even just being sarcastic and cynical, here’s a couple ways you can assume positive intent to keep your charisma:
- Visualize that the person is a friend or family member who you know deep down cares for you and would never want to hurt you. If your friend or family member said the same thing, you would take it as a friendly joke, not something malicious
- Imagine that the person is trying to joke in a friendly way, but is just a bit socially inept and is not coming off the way that they hoped to
9. Show vulnerability
Telling others about your vulnerabilities and mistakes is an effective way to appear relatable to others. Why? Because everyone makes mistakes – they just never tell anyone. This shows that you’re both confident enough to talk about your mistakes, and you share similarities with the other person. Also, if share your vulnerabilities, it’s more likely that the other person will open up and share theirs as well. This will help build a strong social connection between you.
Studies have shown this to be true. Researchers at the University at Buffalo found the following connections between self-disclosure of vulnerabilities and likeability:
- People who disclosure their vulnerabilities tend to be liked more than people who disclose at lower levels
- People like others as a result of having disclosed their vulnerabilities to them
10. Be interested in other people
Imagine you go the opportunity to hang out with a person you admire – someone who’s done something you deeply respect. Would you act laid back and uninterested? Or would you be enthusiastic and engaged? I think we’d all answer the latter (unless we get starstruck and can’t bring ourselves to say anything).
Just visualizing in your mind that the person you’re speaking with is someone like this will cause you to be more enthusiastic about talking to them. You’ll subconsciously be more present, ask deeper questions and follow up with more engaging responses. You will truly want to have a great conversation with them. And this will create a self-fulfilling prophecy that you most likely will.
It’s rare that you meet people like this in every day life. But it is likely that each person you meet knows something interesting or important that you don’t. They’ve been on this earth for decades – it would be unbelievable if they did not know something important that you didn’t.
Begin each conversation by assuming the other person knows something interesting, and you’ll be much more likely to push yourself to discover it. It will especially help you get through the introductory small talk that ultimately leads to more interesting topics.
11. Take compliments graciously
When you give a charismatic person a compliment, you would never see them act embarrassed or say they are undeserving of it. Why? Because that would make you feel like you did something wrong by giving them one. Instead, they respond with genuine positivity and warmth to show you that they’re truly happy you gave them the compliment, and that you did a good thing by doing it.
How to take a compliment graciously
When someone pays you a compliment, follow these steps:
- Let it sink in for a for a beat or two, as you take in what they said
- Let your face to react with a warm, confident smile towards them
- Tell them, “Thank you, I really appreciate it!”
12. Charismatic body language
The first way you spot a person with a charismatic personality is by their body language. When a person present themselves with confidence, your brain immediately assumes they have something to be confident about. If they walk with their shoulders slouched and their chin down, you’ll assume they have something to be unhappy or doubtful about, which will subconsciously make you feel unhappy or anxious around them.
Do these 4 things to maintain a confident, charismatic posture
- Stand up with a straight back.
- Keep your shoulders back. Don’t let them slouch forward
- Keep your arms at your sides. Don’t cross them in front of your chest
- Keep your chin and eyes up. If you lower them, people will feel like you’re worried or uncomfortable – and they’ll start to feel that way themselves
When you stand with charismatic body language, you exude charisma outward without even knowing it. When you carry yourself in a confidently, people believe you have something to be confident about. And this will naturally attract them to you.
13. Believe that other will like you
It may sound frivolous, but people with charismatic personalities believe that other people will like them. And this is absolutely necessary to get others to like you in reality. Why? Because thinking that people will dislike you is a self-fulfilling prophecy:
- You assume people won’t like you
- This causes you to doubt yourself
- Since you doubt yourself abilities, you don’t follow through effectively in your actions
- Since you don’t perform well, you don’t succeed in getting people to like you
This has been proven in scientific studies: Stinson et al. (2009) found that “people who expected to be accepted did act more warmly towards a stranger and consequently they were perceived as more likeable”. In comparison, the study also found that “expectation of rejection leads to the projection of colder, more defensive behaviour towards others, and this leads to actual rejection.”
To help make yourself truly believe that others will like you, I recommend using the Big Brother Technique. This visualization technique will help you believe it, instead of just trying to think it:
Remember a time back when you were a child and you got into trouble or forgot to do something important – and your parent or older sibling told you everything was going to be OK? Remember how you felt like they always knew the right answers, so they must be right about this to? This helps you believe that everything will work out alright, and helps decrease your anxiety.
Here’s how to do the Big Brother Technique:
- Sit comfortably or lie down, relax and close your eyes
- Take two or three deep breathes, and just focus on the physical sensation of breathing
- Choose a person you deeply admire or look up to
- Imagine that person is sitting next to you
- Tell that person everything you’re concerned about
- Imaging that person taking everything in, thinking about it very deeply, and then telling you it’s all going to be alright. Imagine them giving you a confident smile, like they know deep down that it will be, and you have nothing to worry about.
- Feel yourself agreeing with them that they’re right, and you really don’t need to worry because it will work out.
It’s such an effective technique because, when you were a child, you really did believe your parent or older sibling when they told you this. So this feeling, like so many others from childhood, is hardwired into our brains.