Charisma, intimacy, and the one night stand handshake

charismatic historical figuresI love you. Can you see it in my eyes? Can you feel it in my handshake? I am completely yours. We are each other’s fascination. But only for this moment… There are so many articles and books written about “how to learn to be charismatic.” You know the drill: eye contact, total attention, body language angles, clear purpose, get your target talking about themselves, etc. Since the brain is coded to assign meaning to situational symbols, using the symbols of love and devotion can be particularly effective, and dangerous.

But the charismatic’s instant intimacy is too easy. Russell Brand’s flirtations seduce, then abandon. Politicians (in this case Canada’s own Pierre Elliot Trudeau) take advantage of their one night stand handshakes. But, like Norma Jean riding the subway incognito then stepping onto the platform and, with only a hair toss and a wiggle, becoming Marilyn Monroe, it’s just too darn easy.

Sure, I’ve played the game. I went from a shy teenager fretting about where to look in high school hallways to a twenty-something who loved going out dancing by herself – in baggy jeans and sneakers! – and would own the floor. Of course the long blonde hair helped (and still does), but there were always hotter chicks with bigger boobs teetering around the club. Total confidence was the key, knowing that even when I made a complete ass of myself (which sometimes people let me get away with, and sometimes decidedly not) I would always forgive myself and plow fearlessly, joyously, even if oftentimes a little sheepishly, into the next song.

Classically, charisma is a genetic trait, but unique in that it can also be a learned skill. Both sources can lead to its being purposed for good or evil. How do we differentiate between the Mother Teresas and the Charles Mansons? But the more pertinent question is how do we prevent ourselves from being seduced by the charismatics who may be sincerely curious and caring, but whose one night stand involvement in our lives can spin our worlds into chaos.

True intimacy is earned intimacy, and that takes time. What also takes time to foster, grow, and mature is the adult version of total confidence: unrelenting compassion, directed both inwards and outwards. It can only come when you’ve found your place in the universe and are brave enough to accept it fully, and with gratitude. Charisma then comes from a deeper, timeless source and the original definition of the word takes hold – whatever your faith or system of beliefs. People will be drawn to you because you’ll have found a center, one that pulls in other worlds with a gravity all its own.

4 thoughts on “Charisma, intimacy, and the one night stand handshake

  1. Body language…I had to learn that one as a technical exercise (yeah, I know…I’m veering towards the Sheldon…). And yet, because I do have to actually think about it, I’m able to understand it better. I think. The techniques seem remarkably similar to novel writing in many ways.

    • So true! As writers, learning body language tricks of the trade can help us make our characters more human, as well as more charismatic. Plus, the dynamics of charisma (and intimacy) are key to a novel’s successful engagement with the reader. The same elements that draw us to other people, can be used as structural components in novel writing (eg: larger than life characters, intimate reveals, telling the reader’s story and not just the writer’s).

      I think those of us who have to “think about it,” have two advantages. One, we can more easily recognize when people are using these charismatic tactics disingenuously, to pull us towards somewhere where we don’t want to go. And two, we don’t have to be ‘on’ all the time and can slip back into delightful Sheldon-ism whenever our little hearts desire 😉

      Best of luck with your own 50 000 words!

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