Charisma: Is It In You?
Written by
Hallie Sawyer
March 2011
Written by
Hallie Sawyer
March 2011

I came across an article in "O" The Oprah Magazine (an issue from Oct. 2010 that has been sorely neglected) today that talked about charisma: what is was, how to gauge it, as well as how to reveal it in yourself.

Charisma. Such a strange sounding word when you say it. Cha-RIS-ma. Those Greeks and their funny words. My handy dandy dictionary app on my iPhone says it originated in the mid-1600's and the base of the word means "to favor".

As I read more of the article, I thought about the people in my life-those in my everyday circle as well as those in the writing community-and their charisma. What draws me to the people in my life? What is it about them that makes me want to engage?

Charisma plays a part but I'm also drawn to people that are authentic. I don't want the superficial conversation; I need substance. I can see and smell BS a mile away, maybe even two. It's a God-given talent, I'm sure of it. Some have a photographic memory, I have a built-in BS detector. Hey, I'll take what I can get.

I am not a superficial person and I have low tolerance for those that are. College was the worst! Sorority rush? The female mecca of superficiality. Except for the house I chose. I chose Alpha Phi because they were authentic. They told jokes, talking about real things, and were at ease with themselves. They didn't tell me how cute my dress was or ask what high school I went to or what I did all summer. They wanted to know about me.

Don't worry, I'll play fair. The guys were bad, too. Just awful! I may or may not have entered the bar scene at a younger age than the required 21 years. I found out that young women at bars, allegedly, received the worst of the; the bars were the male beehive, churning out BS like honey. Finding authenticity in the bar scene was like finding Lady GaGa with clothes on. I think this was where I honed my talent, fine-tuned it's precision. Guys at last call were the best entertainment. I loved listening to their spiel before blowing my BS horn.

As I've steered my way down life's road, I have met a lot of people. If I don't feel the authenticity right away, I keep on truckin' down the road. Unfair? Maybe, but if you can't be yourself, how will I know you like me just for me? And not for my looks? Or my humility? :) I want to know who I am really dealing with; I need authenticity. And I know that road has two lanes. You may not "get" me, either, and I'm okay with that.

Then I got to thinking, what does draw people to me? Gosh, do I have charisma?  If not, how do I get it? Can I learn it? Do you have to be born with it?

As I read further in the article, Howard S. Friedman, a psychologist from UC at Riverside goes on to say that a charisma isn't like a light switch, turning off and on when we want. He says,"Truly charismatic people are authentic."

Martha Beck, another contributor to the article, then tells me the good news. She says that it can be learned, sort of a "fake it until you make it" approach. She says that through confident body language, letting go of doubt, focusing on those around you, and setting personal boundaries that you can find your own unique charismatic style.

Charismatic folks are the ones that sell you stuff that you don't need or ever knew you wanted. Remember that guy in the middle of the mall that sold you the one-of-kind straight from the Dead Sea body lotion, and you bought it? That was charisma talking. They'll get you to pull the trigger, so to speak, when you are having doubts. They are the ones engaging you when they see you struggling to fit in. They have the "it" factor.

As I I write these posts, I realize they may not be the most professional in wording or subject matter, and that may seem unwise to my writing career. But I don't have the years and years of writing experience to keep you interested in coming back time and time again to read my blog.

I am giving you who I am. My authentic self. And when I do finally get to the point when I am ready to sell my novel, I hope the charisma I have, whether learned or innate, will help you pull the trigger.

Authors/writers: Do YOU think charisma is an important trait to have for the writing life? Why or why not? What do you do to engage your readers? Should there be limits to how much you give them of yourself?

Book readers/friends: Does an author's charisma play a factor in the books you buy? What draws you to the people in your life?

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