I have a select few friends I would call genuinely charismatic — the rest are kind, and/or funny, and/or outgoing, but aren't quite there yet.
The thing is, I can't tell you exactly how I made that distinction. It's more of an intuitive judgement.
But a team of researchers at the University of Toronto, led by Konstantin O. Tskhay (now a consultant at Deloitte), have taken aim at the idea that the average person can't quantify charisma; and through a series of clever studies, they've made it surprisingly easy to do just that.
According to their paper, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and highlighted in The Wall Street Journal, your responses to six prompts can reveal just how charismatic you are. The prompts are below; rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5 on each behavior.
I am someone who …
- has a presence in a room
- has the ability to influence people
- knows how to lead a group
- makes people feel comfortable
- smiles at people often
- can get along with anyone
Now divide your total score by six to get your average charisma score. If it's higher than 3.7, the researchers say you're more charismatic than the average person.
These prompts were developed through multiple studies the researchers conducted, with a total of nearly 1,000 participants.
The researchers asked participants to rate themselves on a series of qualities that described charismatic people and determined that charisma comes down to two factors: influence — i.e. leadership ability and strength of presence — and affability — or being pleasant and approachable. (In the prompts above, the first half correspond to influence and the second half correspond to affability).
One of the most intriguing findings from the paper is that people's ratings of their own influence and affability generally line up with other people's perceptions. That's not always true when it comes to assessing personality and behavior.
What's more, charisma doesn't just exist in a vacuum — according to the studies, it has important implications for social relationships. For example, in a getting-to-know-you exercise, participants who were rated higher in affability were also perceived as more likable. (Influence didn't seem to matter for likability.)
The University of Toronto researchers aren't the first to quantify charisma. I've written before about the work of John Antonakis and colleagues, for example, who have taught groups of managers to be more charismatic at work.
What differentiates the current research is that it looks at charisma in the general population — most other studies have focused on charisma in leaders. This research also boils down charisma to a smaller set of observable qualities than many other studies have.
As with most personality assessments, you shouldn't panic if you score lower on charisma than you'd like. There are plenty of ways to become more charismatic, from practicing reading other people's emotions to using words people can relate to.
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