My Grandfather, Bart Wylie, Front and Center
According to my uncle, my grandfather was so charismatic that when he walked into a crowded room, everyone quit talking, just in case he had something to say. My mom said that he was the most beloved man in town. My dad, his son, adored him. When he died at the age of 52, it was the only time in my whole life that I saw my father cry. He wailed with his head in his hands like a wounded animal and as a five-year old, I was afraid. The lines of people wanting to pay their respects spilled outside and wound completely around the funeral home.
There’s been a lot of research done on whether people are born with charisma or if they can develop it. Charisma is defined as a compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others. I’ve read about it and to the best of my ability, I estimate that you’re born with about a third of it and you can develop about two thirds of it.
Most of what I read centered around very achievable skill sets like being a good communicator. I read that President John F. Kennedy said that charisma comes from being an excellent listener or letting people know that they are being heard. Confidence – the state of feeling certain about the truth of something – is also a key ingredient.
I came upon a video of Conor McGregor, the UFC champion, where he was talking about an upcoming match. McGregor looked directly into the camera with an intensity that was breathtaking and without a shred of hesitation said about his opponent, “I will most certainly dismantle him also.” Dismantle. Not beat up. Not take down. Not knockout. Not win a decision against. Not probably or maybe or most-likely. Nothing mealy-mouthed. Nothing half-hearted. But simply, definitively, confidently … dismantle. (Here is the link, it is well worth watching.)
I believe that most rational people are confident. They believe what they say is true, because if they didn’t, why would they say it? The problem is their delivery. They don’t speak their truth well. Regardless of what their medium is: writing, speaking to large audiences, or even talking with a friend or small group of people, let alone radio or television.
I have a friend who was the one who got Donald Trump media-ready for the "Apprentice," where she worked at that time as a producer. So of course I asked her what she did. Her advice was simple: practice, practice, practice. Set up a camera and film yourself.
I did this and studied the results. From what angles do I look the best? How should I smile. How should I sit? What should I wear? What colors look good on me? What about my voice? Is my enunciation adequate, my tenor too high or too low? Does my passion for my mission come across well?
Would I want to listen to me?
According to Dale Carnegie in his seminal book, “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” (one of my all-time favs), people think actions mostly follow thoughts … I want to get a bowl of ice cream so I walk into the kitchen and get a bowl of ice cream. But actually, thoughts can follow actions, for example, if you are smiling, you naturally feel happier. If you are acting confidently, pretty soon, you will start to think confidently. And it is easier to control your body than your mind. So, pushing your body to do something is easier than forcing your mind to think something (or in many cases, to not think something).
What did I learn about myself with all my practicing and recording? Two simple things actually made a huge difference. 1. Smile all the time, even when I’m talking (tricky but possible). 2. Keep my shoulders back and stand or sit up straight no matter what. A couple other minor tips I learned – navy blue looks good as does a crisp, white-collared shirt. Be careful not to say “um” and “you know.” Memorize everything you need to say before you go on. Practice, practice, practice.
Why is this important to me? I am now on my 10,001 Book Tour. I am doing interviews with the press as well as presentations and events. I am a published, children’s book author, and I want to represent my brand appropriately and well. I want people to be drawn to my message and sometimes I imagine I will need them to be drawn to the messenger. And really, this is vitally important for everyone to advance your business, your career, your chances at landing that book deal, or television show, that coveted job or promotion. When you go in to talk to your boss, no matter how nervous or unsure you are on the inside, sit up straight and smile.