Charisma

“The truth is that charisma is a learned behavior, a skill to be developed in much the same way that we learned to walk or practice vocabulary when studying a new language.”

-Bryan Clark, “What Makes People Charismatic, and How You Can Be, TooThe New York Times. August 15, 2019.

Argues that charisma is presence, power and warmth. When we focus on other people, they tend to notice our attention and the fact that we find them worth noticing. People like to be noticed, and they tend to like people that notice them.

Power seems to be used in the sense of confidence. There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. But, most people don’t have too much confidence. They have too little. As a result, the end up doing a lot of complaining: about their lack of agency, about the unsatisfactory things in their lives, etc. No one wants to hear about other people’s problems. Everyone has plenty of their own.

Warmth. In a cold, cruel world, be someone else’s sunshine. Be everyone’s sunshine, if you can. Some people seem like they are born that way. Even if you weren’t, who doesn’t appreciate the effort?

Suggestions for improving your charisma? Learn to tell stories. Our stories make us relatable and telling them to others requires focus, confidence and the vulnerability of sharing ourselves with others, which if it isn’t warmth, it’s in the neighborhood.

Bushman Money Magic

“Jackal [the Bushman trickster god] had been riding his donkey and grew tired. He decided to stop and cook some meat. When the meat was stewing in his pot, he saw some [cattle ranchers] coming toward him. Quickly he covered the fire with sand so they could not see it.

When the [cattle ranchers] arrived he said to them, ‘Look, you black people, this is a magic pot. It doesn’t need a fire to cook food. You must just hit it three times like this.’

Jackal grabbed his whip and hit the pot three times. Tca-tca-tca! Then he opened it and showed the [cattle ranchers] that the meat was still sizzling hot.

‘I will sell you this magic pot for one thousand dollars,’ said Jackal.

‘This is a wonderful pot,” the [cattle ranchers] conceded. So they gave Jackal a thousand dollars, took the pot and left.

When the [cattle ranchers] had walked for a while, they grew hungry. So they put some raw meat in the pot and hit it three times with a whip. But when they opened it, they saw that the meat was raw. So they hit the pot again. But the meat was still raw.

‘We have been tricked!” they shouted. ‘This Jackal, this Bushman, he is a crook.” So they went back to find the Jackal. When Jackal saw them coming, he was scared. So he quickly took the money they had given him for the pot and hid it in his donkey’s anus.

When they reached the Jackal, the [cattle ranchers] said, ‘Jackal, this pot is not magic. Take it and give us our money back!’

‘I can’t,’ replied Jackal. ‘This pot is yours now. Anyway, I have already spent the money.’

But just as he said this, the donkey farted and all the money tumbled from his backside. For a second Jackal was terrified, but then he smiled.

‘Look at this donkey,’ Jackal said to them. ‘It’s magic because you feed it grass and it will shit money. If you buy this donkey from me for a thousand dollars, it will shit more money for you!’

‘Ah, this is a magic donkey!’ agreed the [cattle ranchers]. So they gave Jackal another thousand dollars. And with the donkey in tow, they went away again. As soon as they were gone, Jackal fled with the money.'”

—/Engn!au quoted in James Suzman, Affluence Without Abundance: The Disappearing World of the Bushman (New York: Bloomsbury, 2017), 241-242.