It starts with you say–and what you know not to say.
1. They are polite when then can be.
Words like “please” and “thank you” might be technically unnecessary but they’re invaluable if you want to be more charismatic. Want to see an example? Watch this video of an extremely polite and apologetic armed robber–especially starting around the 23-second mark–and tell me you don’t feel a bit of sympathy for him (even if you still think he needs to go to jail).
2. They acknowledge small favors.
“You’re welcome.” These two short words communicate much more than “no problem” (or, of course, “yup”) when someone thanks you for something. Likable people appreciate being thanked, and they pay it back verbally.
3. They offer meaningful praise.
The key word here is “meaningful.” Charismatic people give sincere compliments–never bashful, never obsequious. When someone merits praise, they say so.
4. They express sincere empathy.
They use phrases like, “That must have made you feel proud,” or “I can imagine you must feel angry,” thus both exploring and validating other people’s feelings. (Because here’s a little secret: Everybody wants to be understood.)
5. They share useful information.
Some people like to hoard information because they think it makes them more powerful. Don’t be that person. Important caveat, however: Truly likable people understand that “information” and “rumors” are not the same thing.
6. They offer to help.
Many of us want to contribute to our society, but we often don’t know where to begin. The most charismatic people among us start simply by looking for chances to help–in their families, in their communities, and in the small moments of their day-to-day lives. (Note to America: Hold doors for people coming in behind you!)
7. They speak with justifiable confidence.
They don’t boast or brag. But when faced with challenging situations–especially things that affect other people–they’re the ones who approach the problem with an air of calmness, curiosity, and confidence. You might hear them saying things like, “Hmmm. I wonder how we’re going to solve this.”
8. They use names and titles that connote respect.
Charismatic people remember other people’s names, and use their titles in circumstances when it makes those people feel good. It takes a long time to earn titles like “doctor” or police officer, for example; why not use them?
9. They express their faith in others.
Four simple words: “I believe in you.” My old boss Bob Woodward used to talk about how a few small words of encouragement from Ben Bradlee, his editor at The Washington Post, were all he needed to feel he could succeed as a journalist. That kind of validation from others can inspire achievement–and affection for the person who gives the validation.
10. They remember that they’re part of a team.
A sense of camaraderie makes tough situations bearable. Having a sense of humor can even make them fun. Really charismatic people are the ones who say things like, “Hey, we’re all in it together” during tough times–and then work hard to achieve the team’s goals.
11. They make introductions.
Want to know five of the nicest words anyone can ever say to two people at the same time? “I’d like you to meet….” We’re all networkers these days, I suppose, but truly charismatic people are the ones who are out to help others meet still more people–rather than just building their own networks.
12. They take their turn.
Likable people aren’t afraid to step up when it’s their turn to do something enjoyable, or even to bear the burden of something that isn’t so great. In other words, they can take a compliment or be gracious, but they’re also the ones who remember when it’s their turn to pick up the tab for lunch.
13. They let others make their own decisions.
Truly charismatic people have confidence in their opinions–but they also recognize that other people may legitimately see things differently, and that they have to choose their own paths in life. Moreover, charismatic leaders aren’t afraid to delegate, and then to trust others to accomplish what they’ve asked them to do.
14. They listen–and they want to hear more.
Highly likable people are active and sincere listeners. You can tell them your opinion or a story or ask for their advice, and they respond with questions and verbal cues that suggest they’re present in the moment–interested, even. For any of us, our time is our most valuable resource, and yet they’re more than willing to give it to you.
15. They take responsibility.
When it’s their job or their fault, they step up. They take control of the things they’re supposed to have control over. It makes sense: Reliable people are often very likable.
16. They voice their support.
We all appreciate people who stand by us and who let us know that they’re there. In the military it’s called having the other guy’s “six”–his backside position. Think of someone who showed you support when you needed it and tell me you didn’t think of him or her as highly likable in that moment.
17. They ask, “Why not?”
Likable people are often dreamers, optimists, and doers. RFK put it best: “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”