Just because charismatic people focus intensely on others doesn't mean they forget themselves. Quite the contrary. The very essence of charisma is projecting unbounded awareness of others while setting rock-solid boundaries. When an aggressive reporter pushed a microphone into Uno's face, Uno unapologetically crunched it with his teeth before moving on to more courteous admirers. He showed none of the angry, aggressive boundary setting born of low confidence. Like any true charismatic, he had mastered the art of the clean response—in his case, a cheerful chomp.
Melanie held this effective, neutral energy at her mother's intervention, stating her position while refusing to either rail at, or give in to, her mother's drunken pleas. Ellyn found that when she let herself shine, she had to rebuff sycophants and unwanted suitors but that a firm, upbeat "No, thanks" got the job done. Lisette discovered that she could take the spotlight when she wanted it—and back away from it when she needed space. Her polite disinterest was a powerful version of the cheerful chomp.
If you play around with the steps above—and I certainly hope you do—you'll find that some bold poses feel more right than others, that life calls you to dive past specific littoral lines, that particular people and groups genuinely respond to your attention, and that you have your own way of administering cheerful chomps. The purpose of exploring these general elements of charisma is to find your unique style.
"Oh, golly shucks," you may be thinking at this point. "I'm not charismatic. I'm just an ordinary person." Yes, and beagles are just ordinary dogs. Charisma is the light that shines from the core of all ordinary beings. You can't strip the veils that cover your real nature without illuminating the world in a new, inimitable way. You'll become the singular you—the one, the only, the Uno—that everyone wants to see.
Martha Beck is the author of six books, including Steering by Starlight (Rodale).
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