CHARISMA?

THE CHARISMA MYTH

I’ve been examining a rather silly Kindle book on acquiring ‘charisma’ – one of those middle of the night transactions when you’re not fully operational and in the clear light of dawn you’re inclined to doubt you ever made those purchases. (The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane: I do NOT recommend it.)

What is charisma anyway? It’s a kind of star quality, isn’t it? Is it charm? In my opinion, Barack Obama has it. Vladimir Putin (though he has many interesting qualities and can charm if he exerts himself) does not. Cameron is too boring to possess it; Osborne is too cold. Boris has it in spades, but Boris is neither trustworthy nor virtuous which goes to show that the possession of charisma is not necessarily a pre-requisite for heroes. On the other hand, the Dalai Lama is said to have it – but then so, probably, had Hitler.

One of the exercises suggested while you are cranking up your charisma chart and if you were nervous about some forthcoming event, was to write an account of the happening as you would wish it to be.

Let’s suppose you are giving a talk. So you write as follows: As you arrive at the venue, the chief man is waiting on the steps to escort you in. A group of beautiful ladies is hanging around hoping to catch your eye. The audience falls instantly silent when you get up to speak and they hang on your every word. You triumph over hecklers. The audience guffaws at your jokes. When you come to the end, you get a standing ovation. Their main man thanks you fulsomely and predicts that you are bound for high office. The most beautiful of the lovely ladies invites you to her nearby home for dinner, and advises you that her husband is spending the week in Paris. As she drives you home in her expensive sports car, you take a phone call saying that you have been named Speaker of the Year.

(Incidentally, as well as not being sufficiently charismatic, you are also vain, self obsessed, a cad and a bounder, but blessed as you no doubt are with far sighted clarity of vision, you probably know this.) Maybe you think charisma will conceal these deficiencies.

While I am all for exercises that increase your confidence, I think this is quite ridiculous and one of two things is likely to happen. One is that these fabulous things don’t occur and you are seriously disappointed. The other is that your judgement is hopelessly skewed and you begin to believe that you are a Very Superior Person, God has chosen you for a special task, you are the only person in the entire country who can be its leader, etc etc If everything does not go your way, you begin to feel decidedly ill-treated. You deserve more than ordinary people. After all, you’ve got charisma.

As for ‘acquiring’ charisma, I’m not convinced it’s either possible or desirable. It’s a bit like being beautiful. If you are an average, personable, attractive man or woman, such as most of us are you can certainly do a variety of things which will enhance your appearance, but you can never be a drop dead beauty if you haven’t been born with the face. And why should you want to be anyway? You’re plenty good enough as it is.

So why would one want to be charismatic? Charisma, I think, is about persuading people of our argument by force of personality rather than by reason. Why should you wish to do this? Just be the best of your own lovely self, and as truthful, kind and generous as you find it possible to be. Don’t waste your time writing fairy stories which if they did happen would on no account be good for you or for anyone else.

We don’t need people with charisma. We NEED integrity, courage, patience and good sense. If we had those things, we’d get truth and justice as well.

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About adhocannie
I am a good natured woman with a long memory and a swift tongue. I like loooking at things and thinking about them. Also food, clothes, travel, reading, sewing. I try to see the ridiculous in things, but sobriety of reflection keeps edgting in. I have husband, children, grandchildren, friends... I feel rich in things that matter. I am a happy exile. I like writing. I do not like talking about me (though I do.). You willl be much more interesting.

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