By Tina B. Tessina, PhD
Ever wondered how con artists can get away with all they do? They know how to charm people, and they have mastered the art of looking as if they belong. Because they have no feelings of guilt about misrepresenting themselves, they can pull it off. But you donít have to be dishonest and manipulative to be charming. You can use the power of charm to create a charmed life for yourself, and be perfectly honest, kind and caring while doing it.
Charm comes from a combination of self-confidence, social graces and empathy, or emotional intelligence. People who are at ease (self-confidence) polite and socially adept (social graces) understanding and considerate (emotional intelligence) are always charming and attractive.
To get what you want, you need to feel special and act that way. The more you respect yourself, the more others will respect you. Make sure you present yourself well, dress and act the part. Accept favors and compliments gracefully, with thanks. Donít worry about whether you deserve the compliment Ė if someone says something nice, and you think you donít deserve it, youíre effectively calling that person a liar; which is not charming at all. If you make requests as if you expect to get a "yes," it ups the odds that you'll get one.
If you want good service in a restaurant, be pleasant and charming to the server, leave a good tip, and frequent the same place often. Once youíre known as a regular and a pleasant customer, you will be treated royally. Gratitude for kindness begets more kindness. Nothing works better than a pleasant "thank you so much" to make the kind person feel appreciated, and wanting to give you more. If you want to be well-treated and well thought of, graciousness and poise are the key. When you feel that someone is not treating you well, you donít have to say anything Ė just withdraw. If someoneís not listening, pause in your conversation, until you have your listenerís full attention.
The easiest way to get what you want is to make a pleasant request, and deliver it with a big smile and a warm look. Please is very important, and so is a gracious smile, eye contact, and a warm thank you when the request is met. Everyone melts at this. To see how charm works, watch actors and actresses in movies -- they use it a lot. It's not really sexual, it's more gracious and complimentary, but it often leads to romance, even in real life.
Try observing people (real people you know, strangers, or even movie characters) who personify confidence, and then go home and practice it in the mirror, until you think you've got it.. Self-talk is important -- practice being encouraging and supportive to yourself. If you are internally critical, you'll lack confidence. Try "faking it til you make it" and projecting an air of self-confidence. It will grow on you.
The Downside of Charm
Although being charming will smooth out your social situations, it must be based on a respect to be beneficial. Charm without respect is not a good sign. Narcissists, for example, have learned to be charming to get what they want, but they have no means to give back, so they are attractive and seductive, but ultimately draining and terribly disappointing.
If a person is not at all nervous, awkward and never at a loss for words, you may be very impressed. Such a polished approach is very attractive and pleasant to be around. However, there could be a down side to this smoothness. It can mean that you're talking to a "user" who has learned to say what works to get what he or she wants, but has no moral/ethical compass, so may be lying and conning you. Con artists are very good at being charming. People who have an innate need to be truthful may not always succeed at being charming. So, when you encounter another charming person, make sure the walk matches the talk, and that the charm is part of that personís character, and not just employed to get something.
It's no surprise that awkwardness, fear and embarrassment arise from a poor self-image. To overcome this problem, recognize that you're not going to please everyone, and that sometimes you'll be disappointed, but it won't kill you. Practice taking "no" for an answer, first in private, then ask a friend to role play with you (the friend turns you down, refuses your raise, etc. so you can practice dealing with it) and then take some baby steps in the real world. When youíre in a new, nervous situation, don't use alcohol for false courage. You may survive being tipsy, but if you really want to be seen as charming and attractive, you won't allow yourself to behave badly.
Instead, practice before you get into the new situation. In "It Ends With You" I recommend the "roll the tape" exercise: picture yourself taking the risk, and watch the scene play out. "Re- roll the tape" several times, and go through the scene again. Practice some different responses and different approaches until you feel comfortable with it. Then, you can try it in the real world.
To enhance your positive experience, do the following steps before any new activity:
1. Make a mental note of the possibilities: Can you learn something there? Can you meet a new friend? Will just getting out of the house and around new people feel good?
2. Remind yourself of your goals: You're going there to make new friends and to have fun.
3. Review your positive personal qualities: What do your friends like about you? What do you like about you? Your intelligence, your sense of humor, your style, your conversation skills? Are you a kind and caring person? Reminding yourself of these qualities means you will enter the event radiating that positive energy.
Research shows that people who have a positive outlook have better lives, partly because a positive attitude is attractive and charming, and people are drawn to it. As a result, you make friends. When you are positive you are supportive of yourself and others, you notice the good things more than the bad things, which makes it easier to connect to others. In addition, you feel much better about yourself, which means you feel more deserving of friends. It's a positive spiral, and goes up and up.
Guidelines for being charming in public:
1. Be interesting -- Wear attractive, but interesting clothing -- something that reflects who you are. If you like travel, for example, wear a shirt, scarf, tie or jewelry from another country, or wear something that reflects your ethnic background, or a hobby (sports, the outdoors, a Hawaiian-type shirt with surfboards, gardening implements or an animal print). It will help start conversations.
2. Pay attention: Look around you, and seek to make friends. Notice who's around you and what's interesting or attractive about them, Find an interesting thing about what they're wearing, and complement it. "Excuse me, but I couldn't help noticing that gorgeous color -- it looks great on you." or, "What an interesting watch! Where did you get it?"
3. Prepare in advance: Read up on some fascinating topics to talk about -- the background doings of a hit movie, some new technology advance, or a cool new trend. Then, when someone wants to talk to you, you'll have something to say.
4. Find a way to help: What needs doing that you might enjoy? If you haven't experienced this event before, I recommend finding a "job" to do. Donít just say "what can I do to help?" Instead, volunteer for something specific: to greet people and take coats, or keep the food table replenished, or refill drinks. It will give you a feeling of belonging, a great excuse to meet everyone, and you'll be busy enough to keep your nervousness at bay. The host or hostess will be grateful and remember you later.
5. Follow through: If you do meet someone you'd like to know better, follow the party with an invitation for coffee. The best friendships begin in these social situations.
Once you are meeting people, you need to create the proper energy level to be charming and attractive. Match your energy to the energy of the people at the event. Obviously, if you're dancing or eating barbecue poolside, the energy level will be pretty high. If you're having quiet conversations at a cocktail party, discussing books, or sitting down to dinner, the energy will be more mellow and focused.
Conversations at events you attend should be like tennis matches. That is, the other person "serves" he or she asks a question or makes a statement. Then, you "volley" back you answer the question with the kind of answer that invites a response. For example:
He: "How do you know our hostess?"
You: "We went to school together. I like Pam's friendliness, don't you?"
This invites your companion to respond, and keeps the "volley" going. If the conversational thread ends, The next "serve" is yours. If you have to re-start the conversation too often, excuse yourself and move on. That person is not interested enough. If you force the other person to do all the conversational "work" he or she will move on pretty quickly. One-syllable answers are a pretty clear indication of lack of interest, even if you didn't mean it to be that way. Instead, turn on your charm, and the other person will want more time with you.
(adapted from It Ends With You and The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again)
© Tina B.Tessina, 2006
Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., (www.tinatessina.com) is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California, with over 25 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 11 books, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction (New Page); How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free (New Page); The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again (Wiley) and The Real 13th Step: Discovering Self-Confidence, Self-Reliance and Independence Beyond the Twelve Step Programs (New Page.) She publishes the "Happiness Tips from Tina" e-mail newsletter and has hosted "The Psyche Deli: delectable tidbits for the subconscious" a weekly hour long radio show. She is an online expert, answering relationship questions at www.CouplesCompany.com and Yahoo!Personals, as well as a Redbook Love Network expert and "Psychology Smarts" columnist for First for Women. Dr. Tessina guests frequently on radio, and on such TV shows as "Oprah", "Larry King Live" and ABC news.