How to be Charming – 30 Easy Techniques You Can Learn Today
The key to being charming is to make other people feel good about themselves. It’s not about impressing them with your jokes or interesting points. It’s about helping them showcase their best self – and showing that you understand what makes them so impressive.
A charming person lights up a room when they walk in. They make people around them feel good. They do this with a combination of their body language, appearance, mental state, and conversation techniques. And the good news is that all of these techniques can be learned, just like any others. In this guide, I’ll show you how to be charming with 30 easy-to-learn techniques.
Charming Mental State
The first step to be charming is to get yourself into a charming mental state. This is the foundation of being charming that everything follows from. If you’re not in a charming mental state, then everything else you try to do to be charming will be disingenuous.
Have you ever noticed when someone is faking a smile? Or faking interest in what you have to say? You can notice it pretty quickly. This is why getting into a charming mental state is so important. In this section, I’ll show you a number of techniques to help you get into a charming mental state
1. Relieve anxiety caused by uncertainty
Uncertainty is really uncomfortable (most of us would rather receive bad news that have wait to learn it). And it can severely hurt our ability to be charming: It causes us to feel anxious, and project that anxiety in our speech and body language.
How to relive the anxiety caused by uncertainty
One of the best techniques I’ve found to relieve this anxiety is the Big Brother Technique. Remember back when you were a child and something bad happened – maybe you got into trouble or made a mistake – and your parent or older sibling told you everything was going to be OK? Remember how it seemed like they always knew the right answers, so they must be right about this as well? I’ve found that visualizing this helps me believe that everything will work out, just like it did back then, and helps decrease my 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.
If you do it continuously, you’ll find it becomes easier and easier to visualize it, and get the positive effect from it. It’s so powerful because, when you were a kid, you really did believe your parent or older sibling when they told you this – so that feeling, like so many others from childhood, is hardwired into our brains. This won’t actually dispel the uncertainty (since the outcome will still remain uncertain), but it will help make you less uncomfortable. This is due to the placebo effect, in which, even when we know that the action we’re taking is just in our imagination, it can stimulate the brain into relieving the discomfort.
2. Crush your self doubt
Self doubt is a lack of confidence in our own ability to succeed at something. We doubt our ability to do it, or fear that there’s something essential we’re missing, that everyone else has – that we are simply not good enough. Memories of past failures, rejections, and inadequacies can all grow inside us to create it.
The interesting thing is that most people, especially high achievers, regularly feel this way. Every year, the incoming class at Stanford Business School is asked: “How many of you in here feel that you are the one mistake that the admissions committee made?” And every year, two-thirds of the students immediately raise their hands.
3-step exercise to crush self doubt
If I ever feel self doubt rising inside m, which happens often, I do this simple 5-step exercise to crush it:
- Sit in a comfortable position
- Take two or three deep breathes, and clear your mind by focusing on your breathing
- Destigmatize your Self Doubt: Remember that everyone feels this way. Visualize someone you admire feeling self doubt, and think about how they would overcome it
- Neutralize Negative Thoughts: Remember that your perception of events is not always correct, and we tend to focus on negative aspects of events, while ignoring the positives
- Big Brother Technique: Visualize someone you admire or look up to telling you that you can do it, and believing that they know it’s true.
3. Believe that others will like you
It may sound hokey, but believing that others will like you is necessary to get them to like you in reality. Why? Because thinking that other people won’t like you is a self-fulfilling prophecy:
- You assume people won’t like you
- This causes you lose your confidence
- Since you don’t have any confidence, 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 is backed by scientific data: A study by 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 that I showed you above. This visualization technique will help you believe it, instead of just trying to think it.
4. Visualize yourself as the host of the party
Approaching people at a social event can be hard, especially if the people their are strangers. It can be easy to see people in groups, having engaging conversations, and feel like you’re the only one left out. This mental state has personally led me to leave or disengage from many social events in the past.
If you find yourself feeling this way, there’s one technique you can use to get out of it and back to a charming mental state: Visualize yourself as the host of the party.
Picture a gracious party host in your mind: They’re confident and warm, confidently walking up to everyone and engaging them in conversation. Even if they interact with someone they don’t know, they exude confidence and warmth towards them.
Hosts present warmth because they truly want everyone to enjoy themselves at their party (since they don’t want to be accused of throwing a terrible party). And since its their party, they are in a position of authority, which gives them a subconscious boost of confidence. You can get yourself into this same mental state just by visualizing yourself as the host. Here’s how you can do it:
- Go somewhere private (like a bathroom)
- Close your eyes
- See yourself preparing the space for the event: Picking up the supplies, putting up the decorations,
- Hear yourself warmly welcoming the firsts guests as they arrive
- Feel someone touching you on the arm and then thanking you for hosting such a wonderful event
This will get you to visualize all of the sensations you would feel as the actual host of the party, and make your subconscious believe that you are hosting the party. You’ll then be able to go out and act as if you’re the host, because your subconscious believes you are.
5. Be present
Being present means paying attention to the people and things going on around you. It means avoiding getting lost in your own thoughts, and instead engaging fully with the person you’re talking to. It means focusing on what they’re saying and responding to it, instead of thinking about what you’re going to say next.
Why is it Important to be present?
Have you ever been talking with someone, and you could tell you didn’t have their full attention?
How did it make you feel?
Annoyed? Maybe even inadequate?
The paradoxical thing about being charming is that it’s not about making yourself look impressive, it’s about making others feel good about themselves. The way people perceive you is based on the way you make them feel. If you make them feel positive, they’ll feel positive towards you. If you make them feel bad, then that’s how they’ll feel about you.
Presence is where this begins. When you’re present, focusing on the person you’re talking to, they feel like you care about them, and that you’re a genuine, authentic person.
6. Assume other people know something you don’t
Imagine getting the opportunity to talk with someone you truly admire – someone who’s achieved something you deeply respect. Would you act cool and uninterested? Or would you be truly enthusiastic and engaged? I think we would all answer the latter (unless we get truly starstruck and can’t bring ourselves to speak).
Simply thinking about the other person this way will cause you to be more enthusiastic about talking to them. You’ll subconsciously, and even consciously, be present, ask interesting questions and make more engaging responses. You will truly want to have a great conversation with them to learn how they achieved what they did, and what it felt like. And this self-fulfilling prophecy will make it more likely that you 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 of important that you don’t. They’ve been on this earth for decades – it would be astounding for them to not know something important that you don’t.
If you start each social interaction by assuming the other person knows something important, you’ll be much more likely to push yourself to discover it. It will especially help you get through the opening small talk, that many people despise, that ultimately segways into the deeper topics where we’ll learn something important.
Charming Body Language and Appearance
Body language and appearance are the first way we judge someone when we first see them. Before they even have a chance to speak, we’ve already starting forming our first impression of them. Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov found that it only takes 1/10th of a second to form an impression of a stranger from their face. This included not just how attractive they were, but deeper personality traits as well. In this section I’ll show you several techniques to present your body language and appearance to be more charming.
7. Dress to impress your audience
People like people who are like them. This includes their clothing, appearance, demeanor and speech. If you want to impress others, the best way to do it is to look at the style of clothing they wear and choose the upper end.
8. Approach with a purposeful stride
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 look aggressive, like they’ll bowl you over if you get in their way, but you can tell from their walk that they are doing something 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.
9. Don’t fidget
Visualize James Bond: He’s cool, calm, and makes few, but deliberate, movements. Don’t fidget or bob your head. Don’t say “um” – this makes you sound insecure. Get comfortable with stillness and silence. Being able to handle it for stretches of time makes you look confident, and makes others want to be around you.
10. Hold eye contact
Eye contact is one of the most powerful ways we can use body language to show people we’re interested, or not interested, in them. One study found that eye contact is a potent source of social information: Direct eye contact signals our desire to approach and averted eye direction signals avoidance. This means that if you hold eye contact with the person you’re speaking with, you’ll make them feel like you care about them and want to talk with them. And if you look somewhere else while they’re talking, they’ll assume you’re uninterested in them, and ultimately cause them to feel bad about themselves.
Smiling has a powerful affect on yourself and others around you.
How smiling affects you
Even if you’re not happy, studies have shown that making yourself smile will actually make your brain happier. Smiling activates the release of neuropeptides, feel-good-messengers that work to fight stress in your brain. When a smile flashes across your face; dopamine, endorphins and serotonin are all released into your bloodstream, making not only your body relax but also work to lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
How smiling affects those around you
In a Swedish study, people were shown images of several emotions: joy, anger, fear, and surprise. When the image of someone smiling was shown, researchers asked people 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.
12. Mirror others body language
Mirroring someone’s body language is an effective way to establish trust and rapport, two key ways to make others feel around you. It causes others to subsciously feel like you’re similar to them, which is one of the most powerful ways to attract people to you. Here’s how you can do it well, without making it too obvious:
- Be selective: Only do what feels natural
- Use variations in amplitude: If they make a big gesture, make a smaller one
- Use lag time: Let a few seconds go by before mirroring their poses
13. Stand up straight with your shoulders back
To be attractive to other people, you need to present yourself confidently. If you keep your shoulders slouched and your chin down, it makes you look like your trying to hide from the interaction. This makes people feel anxious and unhappy being around you. Instead, maintain a confident, charismatic posture:
- Stand up with a straight back. Don’t let your back lean forward
- Keep your shoulders back. Don’t let them slouch forward
- Keep your arms at your sides. Don’t cross them in front of yourself – this looks like your trying to hide or protect yourself
- Keep your chin and eyes up. If you let them fall down, people will assume you’re worried or uncomfortable – and they’ll feel that way around you
When you stand this way, you’ll exude confidence outwardly without even knowing it. When you carry yourself in a confident manner, it looks like you have something to be confident about. And that will make people assume you do, which will naturally attract them to you.
How to be Charming in Conversations and Interactions
Now that you’re got a charming mental state, appearance, and body language, the final element is to be charming in your conversations. In this section, I’ll show you several techniques to be charming in how you speak, listen and interact with others.
14. Remember people’s names (and use them)
When knows that you’ve remembered their name, they feel like you really listened to them. It’s a small thing, but it really makes people feel like you genuinely care about them – otherwise, why would you have bothered to remember their name.
There’s two ways you can use their name, in a non-creepy way, to show them you remembered it:
- Introduce them to someone else: If you’re at an event and someone you know joins your conversation group, introduce them to your conversation partner using their name
- Saying goodbye: When you’re leaving an event, or just have to step away from the conversation, you can say “Sorry I have to go say hello to the host before I leave, it was great to meet you Nick!”.
Since both of these generally occur when there’s a natural break in the conversation, it will leave a lasting, charming impression on them.
15. Don’t try to “play it cool”
This might look sexy when James Bond does it in the movies, but in real life, playing it cool and aloof generally just makes you look like an uncaring jerk. When you’re speaking with someone, be engaged and warm when you’re talking with them. Be enthusiastic and positive when you’re asking others about themselves or you’re speaking about your life. This will rub off on the other person, just like smiling, and they won’t be able to help but be enthusiastic as well.
One thing to keep in mind though: Don’t appear overeager by asking too many questions or jumping in anytime there’s a pause or break in conversation. Remember to wait a second or two after someone answers a question before asking them another one, or jumping into a story of your own. Let them feel like they’re able to bring up topics and ask about things they’re interested in, so it doesn’t feel like you’re just controlling it.
16. Use ice breaker questions to find similarities
It can feel difficult to start a conversation with a stranger that goes farther than small talk and formalities. The best way to think about ice breaker question is as on-ramps to conversations about shared topics of interest. And the best ones to start with are the most obvious (it’s can come off as creepy or weird if you try to dive right into a topic you think you’re both interested in).
Here’s a couple ice breaker questions you can use in almost any situation:
- What brings you here tonight? (this will likely be similar to your reason – so it can easily lead to discovering similarities between you)
- How do you know the host? (the one person you will both likely know at a social event is the host – so this is an easy point of similarity you both share)
17. Listen for similarities and follow-up on them
As you talk with someone, look for interests you both share. There’s always some similarity between two people, so keep listening. As you do, listen for “Connection Points” These are words or topics that connect with your own interests that you can use to generate conversation topics from. If you like to travel and someone starts to talk about going on vacation, you can connect to “vacation” and use it to flow into stories or questions. Do your best to bank as many connection points in your mind as you can while you listen. This will give you a mental bullet list of all the different things you can discuss.
18. Use open-ended questions to let them talk about themselves
There’s nothing that halts a flowing conversation like questions that lead to one word answers – especially “yes” or “no” questions. They don’t allow you to keep going to the next point. You basically just have to start from scratch with a new questions after the person answers. Instead, ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions start with “how”, “what” or “why”, and provide an opening for the person to discuss their thoughts, feelings and motivations
Once you start to find similarities between you, ask open-ended questions about them. Here are a few examples:
- What do you think of [shared interest]?
- What are your plans for [shared interest event/season]?
- How did you do [shared interest]?
- How do you think [shared interest] will work out?
- What made you do [shared interest]?
19. Show vulnerability
Sharing your vulnerabilities and mistakes is a powerful way to make yourself relatable to others. Why? Because everyone makes mistakes – they just never talk about them. Doing this will show that you’re both confident enough to talk about your mistakes, and you share similarities. Also, if you open up and share your vulnerabilities, it will make it more likely that the other person will to. And this will help foster a strong social connection between you.
A study at the University at Buffalo found the following connections between self-disclosure of vulnerabilities and likeability:
- People who engage in intimate disclosures tend to be liked more than people who disclose at lower levels
- People like others as a result of having disclosed to them
20. Don’t brag or name-drop
Bragging is a sure sign that you’re self-conscious about yourself. It will make people think you’re just trying to show that you’re better than them, which will make them feel annoyed. Confident people don’t need to tell you what they have to be confident about. The way they “tell” you is simply by carrying themselves in a confidence manner.
If you are ever talking about something impressive, do it with modesty. Don’t focus on the expense or prestige of it, instead, talk about how it made you feel. That way, people will be able to relate to it on emotions, which is something everyone experiences. And they then have the opportunity to talk about a situation of their own in which they felt the same way.
21. Take compliments graciously
If you ask bashful and embarrassed when someone gives you a compliment, you’ll make them feel bad for giving you the compliment. But, instead, if you respond positively and with genuine warmth to the person who gave you the compliment, you’ll make them feel that way as well.
How to take a compliment graciously
When someone gives you a compliment, follow these steps:
- Let it sink in for a moment, like you’re really thinking about what they said
- Allow your face to react with a warm, confident smile towards them
- Tell them, “Thank you, I really appreciate that!”
22. Don’t interrupt others
You should never interrupt another person – even if you have something incredibly interesting to add. If you do, it will make them feel like you don’t care about what they’re saying. It also stops the flow of the conversation, and making the person feel less inclined to continue for fear that you’ll just cut them off again. On the other hand though, you should always let others interrupt you – even though they’re wrong to do that, it’s not worth making them feel wrong. Why? The best way to be charming is to always make the other person feel good about themselves.
23. Follow up with someone if they get interrupted
If you’re in a group, and a person happens to get interrupted by someone else, they may feel discouraged and drop out of the conversation. When this happens, wait until the interruptor finishes speaking, and then ask the other person, who was interrupted, to continue speaking. This will have a huge impact on them, because they’ll feel both that you were listening, and you truly care about them.
24. Take turns speaking to everyone in a group
If you’re speaking in a group of people, don’t just speak towards the one person who you’re responding to. This will make everyone else feel like you’re not engaging with them. It may even make them feel like you’re purposely ignoring them. Instead, if you launch into a response or story that lasts longer than a few seconds, spend a second or two making eye contac with each person in the group. Even if it’s just for a moment or two, that eye contact will be what they remember from your interaction, not the content of what was said.
25. Make responses that are active and constructive
Responses that are both active and constructive do two jobs:
- They make the person feel good about themselves and what they said
- They provide an easy way for the person to continue speaking about themselves
Check out this table to see examples of different types of responses to the same statement:
26. Respect waiters
This technique applies to any customer service staff, including cleaners and taxi drivers. Dr. Frederic Neuman found that the way you treat customer service staff says a lot about your personality to others. If you talk down to waiters and taxi driver, it will make you look like a bully or a jerk. And the other person will feel like you could treat them like that at any time.
27. Speak positively about others
If you gossip about people or make insulting jokes about them, you’ll come off as a negative person. Or worse, the person you’re talking to will think that you’re going to talk about them like that as well.
To be charming, you always want to be seen as a source of positivity and warmth. When you speak about others, find something positive to say about them, or, at least don’t say anything negative. If you find your conversation partner engaging in gossip about someone else, don’t try to make them feel bad about it, but don’t play along either. Instead, just say you hadn’t thought about it before, so you don’t have an opinion on it.
28. Find common ground on contentious issues
As a rule, it’s best to avoid contentious issues. But if you do find yourself embroiled in one, take a step back and try to find a point that you both agree on. Even if it’s indirectly related to the topic, it will help to defuse the confrontation.
Why is this important?
We’re attracted to people who are similar to us. If we find someone to be disagreeable, or worse, obsessive over petty arguments, we’ll be unlikely to form a connection with them.
29. Keep your phone out of sight and on silent
If you’re talking to someone and your phone is in your hand or the table next to you, they may think that you’re actually wondering who’s going to call you, instead of listening to them. This will drop your perceived presence and charm. It will also keep you unconsciously wondering if someone is going to call you, decreasing your actual presence.
30. Show others that you see them the way they want to be seen
One thing people jump to do when they’re trying to be charming is to compliment the other person right away. While this isn’t an entirely bad technique, it’s not the most effective way to do it. People don’t just want to be seen positively in some generic way.
In her book No One Understands You And What to Do About It, Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson states that “people don’t want to be seen positively by others – they want to be seen as they see themselves. Psychologists call this the desire for self-verification, and it is a profound and universal need. People become really uncomfortable when they get compliments (or criticism) they feel they genuinely don’t deserve. What this means for you is that praising someone for a quality they don’t believe they possess can backfire on you big-time. The best way to steer clear of this problem is to stick with truthful affirmations. In other words, affirm the abilities and accomplishments that you have direct evidence of—the ones that you know to be authentic and genuinely admire.”
So how do you do this?
The best way is to listen to them talk about themselves and their interests, then to get them to show you their expertise in it. Here’s an example: If the person talks enthusiastically about classic cars, and mentions that they have one, do the following:
- Ask them to show you a picture of it.
- When you see it, ask a few questions about the make, model and restoration techniques
- Show your appreciation with a genuine compliment about it
- Tell them about an experience you or a friend had related to classic cars (like driving in your neighbours as a kid, or watching the movie Gone in 60 Seconds)
If you’re not that familiar with the subject, that’s OK – you can still genuinely tell them you appreciate it, even though you’re not an expert.
This is what causes that powerful feeling of “this person gets me.” And this is what leads to the ultimate goal of being charming, which is to create strong social connections – either as romantic relationship or friendships.