Photo: New York Daily News Archive/Getty Images
I've never really followed popular culture; my finger is on the pulse of things like 19th-century literature (which no longer has one). But the instant I saw a photo of one particular newly minted celebrity, I became a die-hard fan. It's not that his looks are especially unusual. You could pass someone like him on the street without even noticing. Nor does he possess any special talents. And yet, he's got that It factor. Whatever he's doing—striding past paparazzi, greeting a cheering crowd, or licking a reporter—Uno the beagle embodies pure charisma.
Uno was the first of his breed to win the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. His victory was remarkable because beagles are so...basic. They're the white cotton T-shirts of dogdom—they've got nothing to brush, fluff, or style—but when Uno took Best in Show, the crowd leaped up in a wild ovation. Newscasters announced his victory with goofy smiles. Everyone loved Uno's extraordinary brand of ordinariness.
I've always learned from beagles: Charles Schulz's cartoon character Snoopy sweetened my childhood, and my dear departed Cookie taught me worlds about my core values of peace, affection, and gluttony. But I've discovered new lessons by studying Uno's personal magnetism, and I've come to believe that there's no better way to amp up your charisma than to follow his example.
Actually, scratch that. You don't really need to learn charisma, any more than you need to learn laughter. I believe every human being is innately charismatic. Babies squint out from their unfathomably open minds with a fierce, ravenous wonder that makes it impossible not to stare back. But within a few months, or a few years, many children mask their real selves. Charisma, you see, draws attention, and attention can be a problem.
For example, by age 5 Melanie had learned to shrink and disappear when her mother went into drunken tantrums at home or, worse, in public. Ellyn was bullied by schoolmates who envied the way she drew her teachers' focus, so she taught herself not to. Perfectionistic Lisette deflected attention because she feared that anyone who noticed her would notice her shortcomings. This is why a number of us reach adolescence behaving more like whipped puppies than Westminster champions.
Below you'll find four steps to help you reveal your own charisma. If you read them and think, "Oh, I could never!", you've likely veiled your natural magnetism, then mistaken those veils for your real personality. This was probably a necessary move way back when, but to live fully now, you must drop your disguise. In Marianne Williamson's immortal words, "Your playing small doesn't serve the world."
Step 1. Strike Some Poses
We often use the word pose to imply fakery, but more simply, the word means "the position of our bodies." When her mother drank, Melanie literally curled inward, shoulders hunching, spine rounding, eyes down. Ellyn slumped to avoid seeming proud. Lisette spent three decades with her arms clamped against her ribs. They were all posing. So are you, right now. The question isn't to pose or not to pose, but how to know which body language reflects your true self.
Watch Uno the wonder beagle as his handler positions him like a toy. Being placed in show posture, far from constraining Uno, seems to fill him with confidence, sending his charisma into overdrive. For humans, as for dogs, physical movement influences moods. You may realize you spend a lot of the day in a charisma-crushing position. The posture you had as a toddler—spine straight, shoulders back, chest out, head high—may be long forgotten, but repositioning yourself as nature intended is essential to unveiling your innate charisma.
This is why soldiers stand at attention (basically Uno's "show pose"). Try it yourself: Stand up straight, broaden and drop your shoulders, bring your clavicles up and your chin down. If you don't feel a little like General Patton, exaggerate this pose until you do. Experiment with other postures, noting how each affects your sense of self. Hook your thumbs through your belt loops and become a cowboy; smile over your shoulder to feel seductive; imitate Michelangelo's David and find the courage to fight Goliath. Cultivating charisma is one of the few areas where I recommend adopting a "fake it till you make it" strategy, because any pose that elicits confidence, even if it feels phony, is actually a return to authenticity. No one was born beaten.
Here's a challenge: For the rest of today, stand, sit, and walk like the most charismatic person you know. Notice the moments when you feel foolish or embarrassed about projecting charisma. Those are the times when you have forgotten who you are. Persist for a few more days and you'll discover that charismatic body language is a self-reinforcing cycle. As your physical bearing becomes more aligned with your real self, other people will begin noticing you more. Don't let this affect your new behavior (in other words, don't revert to slumping). Ultimately, you must become confident enough to drop your pose of unimportance for good.
And when you get to the brink...keep going
We Hear You!