No, You Can NOT Learn Charisma

Maybe you belong to the people whose sighs become a bit louder every day, who slap their foreheads and say: “Why couldn’t SHE win? She would have definitely been the lesser evil” I am sure you know whom I am talking about.

And in my Communication Courses I get with every new class the – by now – same, old question: “Why couldn’t she learn to be more charismatic?”

The simple answer is – despite what many communication experts might tell you: Because CHARISMA CANNOT BE LEARNED.

It would be as if you wanted to learn confidence. Are you able to learn confidence? No way. There are only “nutrients” that help you develop that (+/-) tiny seed of confidence you carry in you and make it become bigger and stronger. The weaker the seed, the longer you will need to nourish it with the right nutrients. For some it may take a lifetime, while others seem being born with it (and the research in Epigenetics even prove that right).

With Personal Charisma it is the same: you can nourish and grow it, but you cannot learn it. When somebody tells you, that you can learn it, that somebody actually means that you can learn “Communicative Charisma”. To stick with our example of confidence:

“Communicative Charisma”

is like putting an impressive armor around a weak little seed of confidence while

“Personal Charisma”

means that seed having grown into an impressive personality that does not need an armor.

That means, when we talk about “Charisma”, we need to differentiate two different types of Charisma:

Communicative Charisma

“Communicative Charisma” is a set of communication tools and strategies applied to specific situations, mostly Presentations and Speeches.

  • You control the environment,
  • you control the goal,
  • in an ideal case you control the whole setting – from where you stand to what lights are placed on you and of course how you appear and how you develop your topic.
  • It is short-term. When the charismatic presenter leaves the stage it could be that he turns to an absolutely uncharismatic individual. And this is the main problem with politics who are constantly “public”. Consistency is the key-word and that is hard to fake.

This kind of Charisma is highly effective in above-mentioned situations and can be learned, can be practiced, can be applied successfully in short-term-situations. Communication Experts usually refer to this kind of Charisma when they say: “Charisma can be learned”. I, too, coach and train people in “Communicative Charisma”. But as soon as you want to become a constantly public person you need to develop that Charisma from within, so it IS your personality. Other possibilities are: 1. being a professional actor or 2. a multiple personality.

Personal Charisma

“Personal Charisma” arises from a person’s strongly rooted CONNECTION with her/himself (his/her purpose and values), with her/his environment and – in case that person is in a leadership-role (because not all charismatics have to be leaders) – with the people in that specific environment. And only the COURAGE to put that kind of connection into appropriate actions make a potentially charismatic person a truly charismatic person.

  1. The strong connection with yourself allows you to feel in every moment what is right for yourself and courage makes you act upon what is right for you –> you are independent (and a sense of independence is a sign of all Charismatics)
  2. The strong connection with your environment (social environment, corporate environment, economic environment,…) allows you to feel what is about to come. Every development is preceded by many small signs and only those who sense those signs can tune into that development and put themselves into the lead.
  3. The strong connection with the people in that environment allows you to feel their needs and communicate in such a way that they feel heard and understood.

The tools of Communicative Charisma can multiply the effects of Personal Charisma, especially in large crowds, as we have seen with Barack Obama. He has undeniable Personal Charisma and he has used the tools of Communicative Charisma in all his speeches. Nevertheless, in many moments we have witnessed his Personal Charisma as moments of deviation from perfection (i.e. crying under the eyes of millions of spectators).

If you are not strongly connected to your own purpose (and a “goal” is not a “purpose“), if you cannot let go of your own fears of imperfection in order to feel what is going on around you and what is longing to be heard and voiced, all the tools are useless. Tools are only a way to amplify what is already there. They cannot amplify what does not exist.

This is why SHE could not learn to be charismatic. She could not stop to control, to perfect herself, she was polishing the outside, she had a goal but missed her purpose.

That means, either you are born with Charisma or you will never have it?

No. But you cannot simply learn it. You have to develop it. You need to nourish it like that little seed of confidence: you need mindfulness, you need time, you need dedication to the moment. In our quick-paced world, maybe these are the resources we lack most.

See more here: “Personal Charisma”

This post is also available in: German