Stacy Innerst, Post-Gazette
If people at parties see you and immediately scurry in another direction, you may be suffering from charisma deficiency.
Or perhaps, like some public figures -- John Kerry, George Bush I, Bud Selig, for example -- you have undergone charisma bypass surgery.
Either way, there's hope. British scientists claim to have found the secret to charisma and say it can be learned. You were expecting some sort of pill? ("If your charisma lasts more than 36 hours, call a doctor.")
Psychologist Richard Wiseman says that, to be charismatic, a person must feel emotions strongly; induce strong emotions in others; and be impervious to the influence of other charismatic people. Got that down?
While you're awaiting sentencing, here are the professor's more practical charisma tips: Maintain an open body posture, hands away from face when talking. Stand up straight, relaxed, hands apart with palms forwards or upwards. Let people know they matter and you enjoy being around them. Develop a genuine smile, nod when they talk, briefly touch them on the upper arm and maintain eye contact.
"These are things that can be worked on," said Wiseman on the BBC. "They're not out of people's reach."
Reaction to the BBC report:
"What a load of rubbish. Hitler was probably the most charismatic of any leader in the 20th century -- he led an entire country to its doom -- but I wouldn't say he smiled a lot!" -- Ian Wild, UK
"Charisma is more than just simple the ability to communicate or extrovertedness. And science should be pursuing something more useful with their time." -- Alex, USA
"Some of this is just common sense, but if anybody makes a habit of trying to touch me on the upper arm it drives me insane." -- Paul, UK
"I wish I had read this a day earlier! At least then my X factor audition may not have been so uneventful and I could have got a chance to have a pop at Simon Cowell!" -- Ant, UK
Devised by Prof Wiseman.
1. Do people tend to notice when you walk into a room?
2. Can you keep calm when those around you lose their temper?
3. Are you comfortable with the idea of being a group leader?
4. Would you describe yourself as being open to unconventional ideas?
5. Are you able to energize a group with your enthusiasm?
6. Do you believe that almost any situation can be changed for the better?
7. Do you find it easy to simplify complicated ideas ?
8. Would you describe yourself as being passionate about the areas of your life that matter most to you?
9. Do other people tend to describe you as articulate?
10. Do you find it easy to hold other people's attention when you are talking to them?
Scoring: Eight to 10 yes answers, highly charismatic; 5 to 7, average charisma; 0 to 4, you lack charisma.
Remember the '04 election?
Census figures from the 2004 election -- to refresh your memory, George W. Bush beat John Kerry -- show huge class discrepancies. Of the 33 million American adults who are not high school graduates, only 30 percent voted. Of the 55 million with a bachelor's or advanced degree, 74 percent voted. Few other modern nations experience such differences, according to Fairvote.com, which says, "It's time to put a spotlight on a deeply troubling aspect of American elections: They in fact may well reinforce inequality rather than help our nation develop means to address it."
The Catholic Church in England is using beer coasters and posters on the London Underground to try to recruit candidates for the priesthood, according to the BBC. A calling from last call?
Reuters reports that worshippers at a church in Wales have a ready alternative to a dull, uncharismatic sermon. Wi-Fi, a wireless network that allows fast Internet access, has been installed in St. John's Rectory church in Cardiff. "I have no problem with people quietly sending an e-mail or surfing the Internet in church," said the Rev. Keith Kimber, "as long as they respect the church."
What would Buddha do?
It's not every day you hear of Buddhist monks from rival temples duking it out in public, but they're people, too. Reuters says the street fight in Thailand was the culmination of years of antagonism. The monks had often exchanged curses, insults and rude gestures as they collected alms across the road from each other. "When an ordinary person is given a middle-finger sign, he will be mad," one of the monks, Boonlert Boonpan, was quoted as saying. "So am I." He said he usually carried brass knuckles during alms collection. He and the four other monks, between ages 15 and 28, were fined $25 and defrocked. But Boonlert was unrepentant. "If senators can fight in parliament," he said, "why can't monks?" The man's brimming with charisma, no?
Quote of the day
"Parents are told by psychologists that they should pick their battles with their kids. But should they pick the iPod battle, the cell phone battle or the R-rated movie battle?"
-- Susan Linn, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School, counts Apple's iPod among the expensive tech fashion accessories straining relations between kids and parents. (Courtesy of Siliconvalley.com.)