The Power of Charisma: How Do They Do It?
By Heath Shive
Charisma projects outward from an individual and stimulates us. A charismatic person can seduce people one-by-one or on a massive scale.
Robert Greene – author of the The Art of Seduction – tells us that a Charismatic relies on the power of words because words are the quickest way to create emotional stimulation. Words can elevate, energize, and motivate.
But which words? And how?
Maybe charisma is just narcissism – extroverted and eloquent narcissism.
To the science!
Bragging Is Better?
In 1992, psychologists Lynn Miller, Linda Cooke, Jennifer Tsang, and Faith Morgan performed some studies on the nature of “positive” disclosure versus “boastful” disclosure. Both positive and boastful disclosures involve communicating your achievements, but boasting adds an element of competition and “one upmanship.” Boasting implies that you beat somebody.
In one of the studies, the researchers had the study subjects respond to characters who disclosed in either a boastful, positive, or negative fashion. The respondents rated both the boasters and positive disclosers as more competent than the negative “wimpy” (my word) disclosers.
Later, respondents rated the positive discloser to be more “socially involved.”
But the boasters were rated as more competent!
The Charisma of Popularity
In 2011, psychologists Mitja Back, Stefan Schmukle, and Boris Egloff performed a study on the first impressions that popular people make. They gathered 73 college students on their first day of class (so that they didn’t know each other). All the students had to introduce themselves individually in front of the class. Immediately after this introduction, the rest of the class evaluated the student (no pressure!).
Then, each student had to fill out a questionnaire at home which determined whether the student’s personality was – among other things – self-centered (narcissist) or self-transcendent (nice).
The most popular people in the class were of 2 types: extraverts and the self-centered. Extraverts were considered popular because they were seen as more fashionable, more self-assured, had a friendly facial expression, strong voice, and an original introduction.
Self-centered people were popular for the exact same reasons!
Perhaps at first, we can be attracted to self-centered people not because they are self-centered, but because they superficially seem to be like extraverts!
But whereas extraverts genuinely like other people, self-centered people view others as being inferior.
But Sooner or Later
In 1998, psychologist Delroy Paulhus performed a study on 124 college students, who were divided into groups. Each group contained a narcissist. At the end of the 1st meeting, the narcissists were considered intelligent, confident, and entertaining. The group seemed to enjoy their presence.
But by the 7th meeting, narcissists were not liked at all.
Robert Green warns that charisma is as volatile as the emotions it stirs. Too much charisma for too long creates fatigue, and a desire for calmness and order.
So when I hear someone say “charisma,” I think “narcissist who talks well…for now.”
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Back, M.D., Schmukle, S. C., & Egloff, B. (2010b). A closer look at first sight: Social relations lens model analysis of personality and interpersonal attraction at zero acquaintance. European Journal of Personality. 3, 225-238.
Miller, Lynn, & Cooke, Linda & Tsang, Jennifer & Morgan, Faith. (1992). Should I Brag? Nature and Impact of Positive and Boastful Disclosures for Women and Men. Human Communication Research. 18 (3). 364-399.
Paulhus, D. L. (1998). Interpersonal and intrapsychic adaptiveness of trait self-enhancement: A mixed blessing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1197-1208.
Hello! My name is Heath Shive, content manager at ScholarFox. I'll be the author of most of the blog posts. I'm a former geologist and currently a freelance writer. The world is complex and seemingly crazy. Good! Because when you love to learn, you'll never be bored.