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Book Summary – The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism

The Charisma Myth - Book summary

Charismatic people have a natural magnetism that draws people to them. Charisma isn’t an inborn talent, but a set of skills and behaviors that can be learned with the right tools and practice. In this book, Olivia Fox Cabane presents strategies, exercises and tips to help you develop your personal charisma and magnetism. In this free version of The Charisma Myth summary, you’ll find the answers to questions like: What’s charisma? How to be charismatic? Is there an ideal charismatic style for me?

Busting the Charisma Myth

Contrary to popular belief, charisma is not something you’re born with. It’s actually a set of learned behaviors that can be switched on and off by changing your body language. When Marilyn Monroe turned off her charisma, she managed to blend into the subway crowd with no one noticing her. Yet, once she turned it back on, her fans recognized her and flocked to her.

Charismatic people are listened to, respected and admired, which gives them a real advantage in life:

  • In work and business, charisma can help you to get a job, get your ideas heard and adopted, attract talents, make people want to work with you and implement your ideas. Charismatic people are also perceived to be more productive and get better performance reviews.
  • In your personal life, charisma can help you to influence friends, family members, peers and your community.

How can you become more charismatic and magnetic? We’ll now briefly outline the 3 ingredients behind charisma and how to master them.  Do get our full version of The Charisma Myth summary for more details.

Mastering the Science of Charisma


Charisma is fundamentally about how you make people feel. There are 3 key ingredients behind charisma: power, warmth and presence. Regardless of your personality type or physical appearance, you can master these components to become more charismatic.

The Charisma Myth summary_3 keys to charisma

Being present is about paying full attention to what’s happening rather than being lost in your own thoughts. Presence can’t be faked. If you’re not fully present in a conversation, others can sense it via subtle signs like your glassy eyes or delayed reactions. They may feel offended or think that you’re inauthentic, which hinders trust and rapport.

Power is your perceived ability to impact others. It comes from many factors, including your appearance, perceived wealth, expertise and social status.

Warmth is about perceived goodwill, or whether others think you’ll use your power in their interest. It’s derived purely from your body language.

Take a pause and consider charismatic people like Marilyn Monroe, Barack Obama, or Jack Ma. Can you see how each of these ingredients are at play here?


In our complete version of The Charisma Myth summary, we further elaborate on:

  • 2 main obstacles—physical and mental discomfort—which disrupt your state of mind and reduce your charisma; and
  • 3 key strategies for overcoming these physical-mental obstacles.


Once you can manage your discomforts, you’re ready to create an optimal mental state. Presence, power and warmth are conveyed mainly through your body language, which is impossible to control consciously. To project charisma, you must start by managing your internal state of mind.

If you’re in a charismatic mental state, your body will automatically convey charismatic body language. If you’re in a non-charismatic mental state, no amount of technical skills can mask your underlying thoughts and feelings.

In the full version of The Charisma Myth summary, we elaborate on 4 techniques/approaches to manage your inner state of mind. We’ll just share 1 example here: visualization.

Visualization Techniques

The neural pathways in your brain are like muscles—the more you use them, the stronger they become. You can use visualization to develop any desired trait or mental state. For example:

  • To build confidence, visualize successes and achieving your goals:
    (i) Close your eyes, relax, and recall an incident when you felt like a champion (e.g. getting promoted, winning an award).
    (ii) Experience that moment fully, using all your senses to see, hear and feel your success and confidence.
    (iii) You can amplify the feelings with motivational music, success phrases/axioms or use movements associated with confidence (e.g. punching your hand in the air).
  • To reduce anxiety, visualize receiving a 20-second hug. This triggers the release of oxytocin in your body to counter anxiety.
  • Or, think of someone who epitomizes the traits or mental state you wish to have (e.g. wisdom, warmth, serenity) and visualize them as your personal coach or counsellor.

Other Techniques

Do get full version of The Charisma Myth summary for details on the remaining 3 techniques, including:

  • How to warmth with gratitude, goodwill and compassion;
  • How to use your body to influence your mind; and
  • How to do a charisma warm-up before an important presentation or event.


There are 4 main charisma styles—focus, visionary, kindness and authority—which are the most practical for daily application. Focus charismatics (e.g. Elon Musk, Bill Gates) are fully present—they make people feel heard, respected and understood.  Visionary charismatics (e.g. Steve Jobs, George Bush) move people with their passion, conviction and an altruistic/noble vision.  Kindness charismatics (e.g. Dalai Lama, Princess Diana) emit warmth and full acceptance through their eyes and body language. Authority charismatics (e.g. Adolf Hitler, Margaret Thatcher) project so much power and confidence that people tend to listen and obey.

The Charisma Myth summary_the 4 main charismatic styles
The ideal charismatic style depends on your personality, the situation and your goals. In our full version of The Charisma Myth summary, we explain (i) the pros and cons for each of the 4 charismatic styles, (ii) how to develop and nurture them, and (iii) how to tailor your ideal style based on your personality, goals and context.


In our complete summary bundle, we zoom into various areas and specific tips for applying charisma:

  • Communicating with charisma by: (i) creating positive first impressions, (ii) listening and speaking with charisma, and (iii) projecting charisma with your body language
  • Presenting with charisma by: (i) constructing a charismatic message, (ii) creating a charismatic appearance, (iii) rehearsing and warming up effectively, and (iv) projecting power, presence and warmth on the stage.
  • Managing difficult situations with charisma including: (i) handling difficult people, (ii) delivering bad news, (iii) delivering criticism, (iv) handling mistakes and (v) managing crises.
  • Countering the downsides of charisma, including (i) how to counter envy/resentment, (ii) having people share or reveal too much, and (iii) being held to higher standards and judged more harshly.

Getting the Most from The Charisma Myth

All of us have the potential to be charismatic. You can use low-stake situations to learn and practice the skills/behaviors in this book until they become second-nature to you. If you’d like to start developing your charisma, do check out our full book summary bundle for full book summary bundle. This includes an infographic, 16-page text summary, and a 23-minute audio summary.
The Charisma Myth summary - book summary bundle

The book also includes many other examples and exercises to help you apply the skills outlined in this summary. You can purchase the book here or get more resources and exercises from

About the Author of The Charisma Myth

The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism is written by Olivia Fox Cabane–an American author, public speaker and entrepreneur. She is the cofounder of and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and BBC. She divides her professional time between keynote speaking for Fortune 500 companies and working pro-bono for non-profit companies.

The Charisma Myth Quotes

“Being charismatic does not depend on how much time you have but on how fully present you are in each interaction.”

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

“For charisma, your body language matters far more than your words do.”

“Focus charisma makes people feel heard, listened to, and understood.”

“If you seem inspired, (others) will assume you have something to be inspired about.”

“People really do love to hear themselves talk. The more you let them speak, the more they will like you.”

“Great conversationalists keep the spotlight on the other person and make them feel good about themselves, because people will associate you with whatever feelings you produce in them.”

“The slower you speak, the more thoughtful and deliberate you will sound, and the more attention people will give to what you say.”

Click here to download The Charisma Myth summary & infographic

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