The Charisma Myth — How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism by Olivia Fox Cabane

I first read The Charisma Myth — How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism by Olivia Fox Cabane about 5 months ago and really liked it.  Recently, I re-read it and tried some of the exercises and found them very helpful.  She starts by identifying the three main aspects of charisma: presence, power and warmth.  She then identifies the obstacles to the components of charisma and how to overcome them.    I was interested in her approach to charisma and how charisma starts with calm and confidence from within.  Cox describes some exercises that reduce anxiety and discomfort so that you can be calm within.  I was particularly intrigued by the exercise she calls “Responsibility Transfer”.

Responsibility Transfer

Whenever you feel your brain rehashing possible outcomes to a situation, try a transfer of responsibility to alleviate the anxiety.

  1. Sit comfortably or lie down, relax, and close your eyes.
  2. Take two or three deep breaths. As you inhale, imagine drawing clean air toward the top of your head. As you exhale, let it whoosh out, washing all your worries away.
  3. Imagine lifting the weight of everything you’re concerned about off your shoulders and placing it in the hands of whichever benevolent entity you’d like to put in charge.

Now that everything is taken care of, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy whatever good you can find along the way.

This also appears on her website.   Like watching a horror movie (when you know it is only a movie, the characters are actors, you are in no real danger but you are scared anyway), your emotions trump the logic of the situation. Similarly, with the Responsibility Transfer, your anxiety is reduced even though nothing has changed.  I tried it and it worked for me.

Another exercise from the book and her website that I really like is called “Destigmatizing Discomfort” and is as follows:

Destigmatizing Discomfort

The next time an uncomfortable emotion is hindering you, try this step-by-step guide to destigmatizing:

  1. Remind yourself that this is normal and that we all experience it from time to time.
  2. Think of others who have gone through this, especially people you admire.
  3. Remember that right now, in this very moment, many others are going through this very same experience.

Use these techniques anytime you’re having persistent negative thoughts and you’d like to lessen their effects.

I also tried this and found it to be really useful, particularly when I’ve thought about embarrassing moments in my past (some that still make me cringe).  These exercises are described in greater depth in the book.  I highly recommend this book.

The following are some of my other take-aways from the book:

  • The Wise Brain Bulletin suggested that a 20 second hug is enough to cause the release of oxytocin and that just by imagining the hug can have the same effect.
  • You can increase both warmth and confidence by practicing gratitude, goodwill and compassion for yourself and others.
  • She quotes John Kenneth Galbraith who said when “faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.”  It is a good reminder about the power of first impressions and how hard it is to change people’s minds.
  • On the phone, always ask “Is this a good time for you?”
  • Stories have a particularly strong impact on people.  Use stories, metaphors and analogies to communicate more effectively.
  • Don’t have “don’t” rules.   Just by saying “no problem” causes people to think of problems.

This book has many other excellent take-aways and I will be re-reading it periodically.

And for more information about Nathan S. Gibson, please visit Nathan S. Gibson.

Why You Need Charisma by Rosabeth Moss Kanter in Harvard Business Review.


  • Nathan S. Gibson

    Nathan S. Gibson is an independent worker compliance business partner who provides expertise and creative solutions to enhance workforce flexibility and maintain compliance. He helps mitigate the risks associated with the misclassification of self-employed consultants, freelancers and independent contractors.

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