Charisma = Congruency
Adolf Hitler had charisma. So do Andrew Tate, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Chris Pratt, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Then there are, of course, the non-famous people you know personally who are extremely charismatic and have little in common with any famous actor or politicians.
This is what makes charisma so mysterious. It comes in tons of different flavors. Many writers have tried to find the commonalities that lie at the heart of it all. Olivia Fox Cabane in The Charisma Myth came up with “presence, power, and warmth”.
People are definitely drawn towards those they perceive as successful or influential. But then again, there are tons of powerful people with zero charisma and millions of people with little to no power that are extremely charismatic. Golden retriever energy is extremely charismatic but has absolutely nothing to do with power. However, just as with power, warmth can be a charisma booster but it’s absolutely possible to be charismatic without radiating any warmth. Hitler’s and Andrew Tate’s charisma, for example, has absolutely nothing to do with warmth.
The only non-negotiable item from Olivia Fox Cabane’s list I would argue is presence. Every charismatic person signals attentiveness and active involvement to others, making them feel heard, seen, and valued. That’s why eye contact is so important, even when talking to a camera. But it goes deeper than that of course. When people can feel that you genuinely care about them, and understand their struggles, they will perceive you as charismatic. “You’re important, I understand what you’re going through, I hear you, and I too care about the things you care about.”
Mindfulness exercises can do a lot to help here if you’re not a natural. Charismatic people are not constantly distracted by their phones but manage to stay present. For that reason, people who meditate often tend to be a lot more charismatic. Presence, being fully engaged in the current moment and interaction, is absolutely key to charisma.
But there’s something even deeper: congruency. The more congruent you are in your actions and words, the more charismatic you become. People can sense that something is off when you’re trying to act like someone you’re not, when your actions and intentions are not actually aligned, when you’re fighting inner battles and trying to hide certain parts of yourself. Charismatic people are fully comfortable with who they are and what they stand for.
Others don’t even have to agree with them. As long as they’re congruent, others will feel a certain magnetism. Congruency is what allows people to speak with absolute conviction. And this naturally draws people towards them. They also stay present because handling incongruencies make it impossible to stay present. You always have to play this 6D chess game in your head where you’re carefully weighing what to say or do next. Formulating sentences in your head before actually saying them, wondering about what the person you’re talking to and everyone in the room who might hear what you say will think.
In lieu of actually listening, you’re evaluating dozens of scenarios. There’s this constant fear that people will uncover some part of your true self if you’re not careful. People always sense when this is happening; not consciously, but something feels off. Incongruence is a vibe killer.
However, if you’re 100% congruent, you can relax truly listen to the other person, letting whatever comes out of your mouth come out without premeditation. Your words and actions aren’t perceived as weird even if they are considered unconventional. Self-amusement, vulnerability, and authenticity are all charismatic traits born out of congruency.
Let me give an example. I love the show Million Dollar Listing New York. One of the main characters is Luis Ortiz. Everyone loves him. He’s extremely open about everything - every struggle, every challenge, freely expressing his emotions. You immediately sense that his actions and words are 100% congruent with who he is. Another character on the show is Steve Gold, also a successful real estate agent. Within seconds you can feel that he’s very cautious about what he says and how he behaves. He tries hard to exude a cool and successful image, forever holding back, even while laughing. His words and actions are obviously misaligned with his deep-down self-perception - with who he really is. As a result, he’s the least charismatic character in the show.
If you’ve never seen the show, watch some footage on YouTube.
Now the most critical question is, how do you become more congruent? Becoming more present in comparison is relatively easy. Meditate for 20 minutes every day, and you will be able to remain considerably present almost throughout each day.
Becoming more congruent, on the other hand, requires a different qualitatively type of work. It’s not only about presence and mindfulness - it’s about introspection, self-awareness and acceptance.
First of all, you have to understand what exactly you’re trying to hide. What are the things you’re ashamed of? What are the things you’re trying to hide from the world? What are the things you’re trying to hide from yourself?
“Who am I?” - Sri Ramana Maharshi
But maybe the hardest part is accepting who you are and what you stand for.
It doesn’t mean that you have to be proud of every weakness and flaw. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to improve yourself.
But the key is to stop hiding your flaws and weaknesses.
And it really starts with small things. When you’re reading something weird or uncool, stop hiding it when someone walks around the corner. When someone asks about your job, don’t give a vague answer even though you’re embarrassed about it.
Own what you do and who you are. And you can still express clearly that you’re working on improving yourself, getting a better job, or whatever it is you feel like needs hiding from the world.
The more you accept yourself, the more congruent you become. And the more congruent you become, the more charismatic you become.
And the second part of it is actually working on yourself so there are actually less things that you feel like you need to hide.
Maybe you’re trying to control your smile so none of your bad teeth show. Well, an easy solution here is to invest some money to fix your teeth so you feel more comfortable in your skin. Absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Embarrased of your job? Well, maybe it’s time to start working on a side hustle or a new career.
Ashamed of some bad habits? Well, maybe it’s time to start working on them.
The more you work on yourself, the more congruent you become since there are less things you feel like you need to hide.
To wrap up, charisma hinges on congruence - aligning your actions and words with who you truly are.
And unfortunately, this is not something that can be done overnight. It’s also why all charisma hacks are complete nonsense. It’s not about mimicking this or that specific thing Robert Downey Jr. does.
But the good news is that it charisma is not some extra skill you have to learn.
It’s really all about becoming a better person.
And that’s something you should be doing anyway.