What do we look for from anyone we come in contact with, whether it be at a networking event, at work, in our leisure time, whenever? Charisma. Charisma is the bedrock of how we connect with each other as human beings. It’s the foundation of how we communicate with each other. Without charisma, without sex appeal, without attraction, without the force and chemistry between people, our lives would be dull and boring as hell. Without charisma, your audition will put us to sleep.
I’ve come to realize, because of all the hours I’ve spent in the Audition Room with some of the top actors, that the key ingredients to the Art of Charisma are self-knowledge and balance. In order to tap into the full power of your individual charisma, you absolutely must know who you are and then have the ability to reveal that true self in the hot seat. If you aren’t brave enough to look deep within in order to truly know and accept who you are, then you most likely won’t be a very good leader, speaker, fill-in-the-blank.
Your true self is a reflection of both your dark and light qualities. A charismatic person is the perfect balance of the two. If you are all dark qualities, you will scare us, and if you are all light qualities, we won’t be emotionally moved by you. Shakespeare’s plays are all about self-knowledge and balance. If you’re too much of one thing, you either end up dead or your family is destroyed (Macbeth, King Lear). If you’re the perfect balance of man and woman, dark and light, you end up happily married (Rosalind in As You Like It).
So you must ask yourself, with honesty and fearlessness, “Who am I? What emotional qualities do I possess?” An emotional life is the only thing others respond to. You think we’re attracted to hot bodies? No. We’re attracted to a strong emotional inner life. Adele won a gaggle of Grammys in 2012 for writing and singing songs that are extremely emotional. Apparently, whether we listen to very happy songs or very sad songs, dopamine is released when we feel and either way we are elated by this. Feeling makes us feel better.
In embarking on your journey of self-knowledge, try this simple exercise. Make a list of who you are emotionally. What are your emotional qualities? How would you describe yourself in one-word descriptions – sad, angry, optimistic, caring, fierce, funny, smart, passionate? Your list should be at least ten qualities long, although fifteen to twenty is best. You should be brutally honest. Who are you really? Are you depressed, melancholy, joyous? Are you skeptical, laid back, romantic? You can have contradictory traits and, in fact, it’s best if you do. You can be loving and difficult, angry and peaceful. A complex person is an interesting person. An interesting person is who we want to connect with most.
Most people only show one or two of their qualities to folks they’re meeting for the first time. I probably only show smart and funny to strangers. I might show four or five qualities (smart, funny, optimistic, brave) to my close friends and six or seven (add in angry and sad) to my mate. When I’m alone in my private space I reveal all of my qualities, especially those I want to hide (bitter, insecure, fearful). Sadly, most people are not expressing to others the full gamut of their emotional lives. My darker qualities are not easy to take but they do make up who I am. They are part of my emotional arsenal. If I’m not expressing my authentic self to the world, I’m gypping my colleagues, friends, and family of connecting with me on a deep and meaningful level. Most people are definitely in this group with me.
But there is help. “Don’t fear the unblinking eye of the camera. You will leave the studio a stronger person.”