Some people, like Bill Clinton and Steve Jobs, have undeniable charisma that even their most ardent detractors are forced to acknowledge. Master the art of eye contact and personal space management to create “Reality Distortion Field” level charisma.
Photo by Lucia Whittaker.
Productivity blog Four Hour Work Week has an interesting guest post by Michael Ellsberg, a researcher and author of the book The Power of Eye Contact. Ellsberg has spent years studying the mannerisms and habits of highly charismatic people such as Bill Clinton, Steve Jobs and other public figures that possess a snake charmer like ability to capture the attention of an individual or an entire audience.
So what constitutes what Ellsberg calls “Reality Distortion Field” charisma? A mastery of eye contact, personal space management and maintaining a sense of presence and attention when addressing your audience. How do you get those things? You practise. Ellsberg highlights how to practise making solid eye contact:
While you walk down the sidewalk (during daylight hours!) look at the eyes of every person walking towards you long enough to see their eye colour. Less than a second. Then look away. This is the best technique I know for building solid eye contact skills quickly. In my experience, if the eye contact is brief enough, no one minds at all, and you get tons of practice in.
You can also practice longer eye contact with waiters, salesclerks, cashiers, and other paid service staff, so long as you do it respectfully and in a friendly way.
In all cases, keep a neutral facial expression and soft gaze. You don’t want anyone to think you’re trying to stare them down, rob them, or get them into the sack. If you practice all this for a week or two as you go about your daily business, the quality of your eye contact will become better than most people’s, in a short amount of time.
Check out the full article for tips on personal space management and how to practise being present and engaged with your speaker. The article also includes an interesting analysis of how you can succeed and fail with RDF techniques using the Bush/Clinton Town Hall debate from October of 1992 as a model.
How It Works: Clinton’s “Reality Distortion Field” Charisma [Four Hour Work Week]