The Charisma Myth - Olivia Fox Cabane

The Charisma Myth - Olivia Fox Cabane

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Book Summary Notes

The Charisma Myth

“Charisma has been turned into an applied science. What this book does is translate the science into practical, immediately applicable tools, with measurable results. You’ll learn charisma in a methodical, systematic way, with practical exercises immediately useful in the real world. And, unlike those of us who learned by trial and error, you won’t have to waste any time figuring out what works and what doesn’t. You can go straight to the tried-and-true tools that really do enhance charisma."

"This book will guide you through that process. It will give you concrete tools for projecting the three crucial aspects of charisma: presence, power, and warmth. As you use them, you will experience an increased sense of personal magnetism—and if it was already strongly present, you’ll gain finer control over that charismatic power. You’ll learn how to harness it and how to skillfully wield it. You’ll also learn how to choose the right kind of charisma for your personality and your goals in any situation."

"What you’ll find here is practical magic: unique knowledge, drawn from a variety of sciences, revealing what charisma really is and how it works."

"You’ll get both the insights and the techniques you need to apply this knowledge. The world will become your lab, and every time you meet someone, you’ll get an opportunity to experiment. ... You’ll learn how to become more influential, more persuasive, and more inspiring. You’ll learn how to exude charisma—the ability to move through a room and have people go, ‘Wow, who’s that?’”

Who doesn't want that 'Wow who is that?' response?

Having Charisma will help you in so many areas..

  • Career
  • Social Life
  • Relationships

But Charisma isn't what you think!

Really it's a combination of three things..  All of which we can learn to control!

Presence, Power and Warmth

Focusing on these three Characteristics will help you BE more charismatic not just APPEAR more charismatic..


Born With It

“Consciously or not, charismatic individuals choose specific behaviors that make other people feel a certain way." 

"These behaviors can be learned and perfected by anyone. In fact, in controlled laboratory experiments, researchers were able to raise and lower people’s levels of charisma as if they were turning a dial."

"Contrary to commonly held charisma myths you don’t have to be naturally outgoing, you don’t have to be physically attractive, and you won’t have to change your personality. No matter where you’re starting from, you can significantly increase your personal charisma and reap the rewards both in business and in daily life.”

Charisma is not something you have to be 'Born With'. Although some people are.

What are some thoughts you have when a 'Charismatic Person' comes to mind?

Maybe they are extroverted?

Elon Musk is as much an introvert as anyone and he has a cult like following unlike anyone else in his field..

Bill Gates is introverted and yet has had hundreds of thousands of people following him at will in his company..

Maybe they are physically attractive?

Winston Churchill was not considered attractive but he was very charismatic..  In fact there is whole books dedicated to it!

Instead it's a series of skills that we can tap into at any time!

  • However..  Unlike people who are born with it some of us need to learn these skills!
  • The way to learn a skill is to simply practice a behavior over and over again..

The three Behaviors associated with Charisma are the ones we talked about before..

  • Presence
  • Power
  • Warmth

The Big Three

“Charismatic behavior can be broken down into three core elements: presence, power, and warmth." 

"These elements depend on both our conscious behaviors and on factors we don’t consciously control. People pick up on messages we often don’t even realize we’re sending through small changes in our body language."

"In order to be charismatic, we need to choose mental states that make our body language, words, and behaviors flow together and express the three core elements of charisma. Since presence is the foundation for everything, that’s where we’ll start.”

There is no way to 'trick' yourself into being Charismatic..

Probably what you were expecting from the book was 'tricks' of how to appear more charismatic..

  • But as Olivia points out here those tricks won't work!
  • Human beings are wired to pick up on so many different signals that if you're faking people will be able to tell..

So instead..  We'll go through what each behavior is and your goal should be to embody them as fully as possible!

  • When you're able to be fully present, powerful and warm your body language and speech will send signals to everyone around you.. 
  • Like so much else in personal development the journey begins within before we see external changes..
  • Actually this book might just be the best I've ever read as far as articulating that journey..  

The Big Three


“The good news is that even a minor increase in your capacity for presence can have a major effect on those around you. Because so few of us are ever fully present, if you can manage even a few moments of full presence from time to time, you’ll make quite an impact.”

Presence is the act of being in the moment..

That means being fully focused on the person or people you're with..  

Not checking your phone or worrying about the laundry or what you might have for dinner!

Presence is an almost never ending journey because as humans we're so easily distracted..  But it's one worth taking!  Not only just because it will make you more charismatic.


“Being seen as powerful means being perceived as able to affect the world around us, whether through influence on or authority over others, large amounts of money, expertise, intelligence, sheer physical strength, or high social status. We look for clues of power in someone’s appearance, in others’ reaction to this person, and, most of all, in the person’s body language.”

Power means being able to affect change..

Now if you already have money, expertise or status this one is easier for you..

But what if you don't?  Well how about just being the type of person who does what they say they will do..  That's a type of power most people don't posses!

One that will very likely lead to the other types of power!


“Warmth, simply put, is goodwill toward others. Warmth tells us whether or not people will want to use whatever power they have in our favor. Being seen as warm means being perceived as any of the following: benevolent, altruistic, caring, or willing to impact our world in a positive way. Warmth is assessed almost entirely through body language and behavior; it’s evaluated more directly than power.”

Warmth is being gracious and having goodwill towards others..

This again is conveyed through our speech and body language but starts in our mind..  

Once you have power how are you going to use it..  Do you plan to do good with it or use it for self gain?

Humans are surprisingly good at sniffing people who are selfish out..  Think of all the times you got a 'weird' feeling from someone!  Likely it's because they aren't warm.

What's Stopping You?

“You’ve already acquired important insights about the way physical and mental discomfort can handicap your personal charisma potential."

"In this chapter, you’ll gain the tools to put these insights into practice, surmount the obstacles, and successfully handle almost any internal discomfort. No matter what difficult feelings arise—self-doubt, impatience, annoyance, irritation—you’ll be able to confidently handle them."

"Skillfully handling any difficult experience is a three-step process: destigmatize discomfort, neutralize negativity, and rewrite reality. Let’s get started.”

Want to increase charisma?  First we have to clear the way!

So what is getting in the way?

  • Primarily it's internal discomfort..  Could be anything!
  • Maybe you're too hot, too cold, hungry or tired..
  • Maybe you're angry, sad or bored..  
  • All of these are portrayed through your body language and can be misinterpreted as something else by the person(s) you're communicating with!

How do we overcome internal discomfort?

Step 1 Destigmatize Discomfort

Feeling uncomfortable is normal and it's just part of the human experience

Shaming or blaming yourself for the feelings you get is not helpful and in fact makes things worse

Step 2: Neutralize Negativity

There are many techniques inside the book such as calling out thought patterns or thinking of them as graffiti..  

I am fond of calling these negative impulses as 'neurological junk' programmed into my caveman brain that would be wonderful at protecting me given I was a caveman

Step 3: Rewire Reality

Brains can't really distinguish between what we imagine and reality this gives us the power to 'rewrite reality'

The best way to re-write reality is to ask questions..

What else could this situation mean?

How could this thing benefit me? 

Where is the silver lining here?

*This is so much bigger than Charisma..  


“Because of its powerful mental and physiological effects, visualization is one of the most effective charisma-boosting tools available." 

"The right visualization can help you increase your internal feeling of confidence as well as your ability to project it. Just by using the right mental images, your subconscious mind will send a remarkable chain reaction of confidence signals cascading through your body. In fact, you can display nearly any body language just by picking the right visualization."

"Visualization is indeed a powerful tool. Of all the charisma-boosting techniques, this is the one I recommend making a permanent part of your toolkit. If you gain nothing else from this book, this one technique will make a critical difference in your charisma.”

This is a tool more powerful than most people realize..

Simply by practicing and rehearsing scenarios in your mind you can dramatically increase your charisma!

There are two types of visualization I find helpful..

Forward looking visualization

This is where you would imagine an event coming up in your life..

Instead of the normal anxiety, fear or doubt you might have you see yourself crushing it!

All the things the charismatic do that we've talked about already you see yourself embodying..

Past visualization

This is great right before an event to re-assure yourself that you can do this!

Look back on an event in the past where you were successful..  

Think about how amazing that feeling was and all of the confidence you had!

Practicing these visualizations will not only boost your charisma but will actually help you perform better in the moment!

Warmth Formula

“Warmth is one of the key components of charismatic behavior. It can make people like you, trust you, and want to help you."   

"Unfortunately, for many people, warmth isn’t an obvious, easy feeling to access; it just doesn’t come naturally."

"Many of my clients confide in their first session that they aren’t quite sure what warmth should feel like. In fact, I often hear new clients worry: ‘But what if deep down I’m actually heartless? What if I just can’t access warmth?’"

"The good news is I can absolutely guarantee that you’re not heartless, and I know for sure that anyone can learn to better express warmth.”

What if warmth doesn't come naturally to you?

Good news is that just like presence and power warmth too can be a learned skill..

The three components she gives us in the book


The quality of being thankful

Readiness to show appreciation 


Friendly, helpful or cooperative feelings or attitude

The simple state of wishing others well


Concern for the misfortunes of others

Willingness to go out of your way to help others

How might you practice those?

How to:


Count your blessings!

Write down three things you're thankful for.


Focus on others!

What are three things you like about a person?


Start with yourself!

Compassion for others doesn't come until you practice it for yourself..

The Power Secret

“Because we can’t peer into people’s hearts and minds, we assume attributes from the values we observe."

"When someone displays high confidence through their body language, we tend to assume they have something to be confident about: people simply accept what you project. Any increase in the amount of confidence your body language projects will bring you major charisma rewards."

"Projecting power and confidence is what allows you to emanate warmth, enthusiasm, and excitement without coming across as over-eager or subservient. Because body language is wired so deeply within us, signs of confidence (or lack thereof) in someone’s body language have veto power over all other signs of power."

"No matter how many signs of power and high status we may project through our appearance, title, or even others’ deference, a body language of insecurity will kill charisma on the spot. On the other hand, a body language of confidence can endow its bearer with charisma even when no other power signs are present.”

Power can seem like it's all about title, dress and rank!

But while it is about those things to a large extent..

  • To an even larger extent it's about body language!
  • Humans have no ability to read minds..  So instead we read body language and we're really really good at it!

That means..  No matter what you're title, dress or rank you need to eminent confident body language!

  • Some of the things we learned today will help with this..
  • Visualize yourself with confident body language 
  • Understand the important of body language

Put this into practice..

  • Olivia tells us to practice taking up more space!
  • Stand upright with your shoulders back and don't be afraid to be at the front of the line..  
  • Try this for a few days and see how you feel!  It's just about the repetition. 
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