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An unexpected and quick way to train your charisma

21 March, 2016

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Date of Publication: 21 March, 2016
We all have that bright colleague who’s always one step ahead. Better at gathering action at the meeting. Elegantly rebutting critiques after a presentation. A juggler with the clients’ most unexpected questions.

We may have witnessed that very colleague stepping up their career path as quickly as those wits go. Or just being the one everybody turns to when a solution is needed.

Recent research has shown a direct connection between mental speed and charisma. The quicker a thinker is, the more effective their leadership will be. Even for those who are not officially in charge.

Reasons range from the high speed solicited by our ever-rushing world, to the natural human search for rhythm.

And last but not least, self-doubt is a well-known hindrance for thought. Who could convey confidence better than someone always saying the right thing first?

The truth is, though, that the first thing your quick-thinking colleague says is not necessarily the right one. Only the most timely.

Research also showed no correlation between charisma, intelligence, or social skills.

So if you happen to have those, why not develop some speed thinking as well?

It all roots to what french philosopher Denis Diderot called “L’esprit de l’escalier” (“Staircase wit”). An argument-winning comeback that comes to your mind when you’re going up your home stairs, hours after the argument itself was over and lost.

Most teachers of quick thinking say that a lot of unexpected occurrences in life are all but unexpected. You can actually train your mind for a quick response way before the question arises.

Whenever you come across a situation in which mental speed would have been helpful, train yourself for the next occurrence of that very situation. After some of this training, you will find yourself both naturally quicker of thought and more aware of events to be prepared to.

Former basketball player Walt Frazier, famous for his late-in-the-game steals, comes up with another core teaching. What was he thinking all the time during the games? “Ball, ball, ball”.

Focus on response, not stimulus. “Answer, answer, answer”.

Wait, isn’t the question important too? It is. But if you were listening when it came up, that was all the attention it deserved. Your goal is a quick response, not a meditation on the problem.

As for what that response of yours should be, let’s start by getting rid of hindering self doubt. This requires training, too. Get used to give a direction to your problem solving process. To the core, that direction is the search for a win/win, especially when dealing with people and diplomacy. As for technical problems, just focus on this simple question: “What must be true?”

Charisma is connected to quick and disruptive thinking. And according to speed thinking researcher William von Hippel, careless - or worst, misguided - disruption “is a disaster”.

There’s a key difference between most naturally gifted people and those who trained themselves in a particular field. The ones who consciously try to improve what they feel a lack of tend to be more aware.

“Charismatic leaders are engaging. They can get companies to change direction”, von Hippel says.

Think about it - and do it fast: why couldn’t it be you?

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