What is charisma? We all know it when we see it, but most find it difficult to define. How do we project this influence? What percentage of people have charisma? Maybe one percent of us. Who doesn’t want to have that kind of influence over others? One thing is for sure – body language skills make up the majority of this quality. Of course there are other elements at work here, eloquence, good looks, etc., but everyone who is charismatic has significant body language skills – both the ability to project the precise body and facial expressions at the right time and the ability to read others.
Sixty-five to 80% of all human communication is non-verbal – known by the common colloquial – body language. Seven to ten percent are words alone. The balance is made up of tone, cadence, rhythm, crescendo, decrescendo, pitch, volume, etc. – what is known as “paralanguage”. These percentages strike most people as ironic. But when you consider that the more degrees you have earned – the more importance you will place on the written and the spoken word and the less you will tend to foster and hone your nonverbal skills – it all starts to make sense.
A great political example of this was demonstrated in the 1960 Nixon-Kennedy debates. These were the first presidential debates to be televised. People who listened to the radio voted Nixon the winner, while those watching the television picked Kennedy. Yet, politicians, attorneys, physicians, salespeople, managers, CEOs and most in the public eye ignore body language at their peril… a’ la Tony Hayward – the recently resigned C.E.O of B.P.
If you were an attorney, wouldn’t you want to see a “no” in the minds of the jury or the judge – before it is spoken and change it to a yes? Psychology 101 tells us that once a “no” is uttered, the proverbial doors are closed. Your chances of winning them back to your way of thinking or making the sale are very slim.
Most of the lawsuits in medicine are initiated because patients simply don’t like their doctors – something rubs them wrong – it’s not because of medical malpractice. Great bedside manner is good for the patient as well as the physician. It turns out the medical malpractice insurance companies benefit from this too.
Let’s examine the seven universal facial expressions of emotion – present regardless of age, sex, ethnicity, or culture. They are happiness, sadness, fear, anger, contempt, disgust and surprise.
Each of these expressions has many subtleties, variations and combinations. A particularly interesting example is the microexpression. These are very fleeting – lasting from as little as 0.025 seconds to 0.5 seconds. They are also involuntary. If someone is agreeing with you, and saying all the right things, but you detect a microexpression of contempt, disgust, anger, fear or sadness – you would be well advised to ignore what you hear and heed what you see. It is the disparity between what is said and what is displayed on the face or body that often detects deception. While only one in 300 people are “naturals” – savant-like in their ability to detect these crucial signals – virtually everybody can be trained to see them.
The ability to spot a lie is extremely valuable in business and in personal life. A somewhat related subject is making the distinction between insincerity and sincerity. While this has obvious overlap with lie detection, the ability to detect and project sincerity casts a broader net.
There are also romantic applications of body language. This is certainly an area where the women outshine the men. Most men think they initiate a relationship, conversation, flirting, etc. but studies show unequivocally that 90% of the time, men are simply responding to the women’s body language signals. Guys – you’re being played. Surprisingly, most men have difficulty seeing these signs even when multiple cues are sent up like flares.
Rapport building skills are extremely valuable as well, particularly in sales, and they are increasingly overlooked and undervalued in the board room, the exam room, the court room or in any negotiation.
Having these skills, along with a fluency in body language, is invaluable in both a personal and professional capacity. They can aid in everything from relationships with a spouse to gaining a promotion at work. These skills also allow a person to know themselves and the image they project to the world around them, as well as help them understand their clients and colleagues.