We are now in week 4 of our lessons in the art of being Charming, we have talked about the meaning of Charm and how to build the key skill of Confidence both from the Outside and from the Inside. Now, we move onto the next key component in the building blocks that makes up Charm, the power of humility and the strength of being self-effacing.
What is Humility?
Is the quality or condition of being humble. Why, you ask, is being humble part of being charming? Aren’t you supposed to be the life and sole of the party, indeed more boisterous than anything? Actually, No. We are talking about being charming. Charm is the quiet confidence of someone who does not have to dance on tables to be noticed and is the one with all the people around him in the quiet corner rapt by his words more than by some pranks and loud gestures. Therefore the quiet confidence of one who knows that he does not need to shout to be heard.
Yes, historically, humility is seen as lowering yourself in relation to others, especially in a religious context. Actually and conversely it is about awareness, self-understanding, gratitude, viewing others points of perspectives and having acceptance. Indeed modern leadership and success academics highlight this trait of Humility as being key to successful leaders.
The Attitude of Gratitude
So how do we develop a sense of Humility? Well a easy way to do it is to develop an ‘attitude of gratitude’. This phrase most recently made mantra by Oprah Winfrey and previously by the personal development guru Zig Ziglar, was originally coined by Christian D Larson in his “The Optimist Creed” in 1910. Mr Larson says “when we express whole-souled thanksgiving to everything and everybody for everything that comes into life we draw closer and closer to all the elements and powers of life.”
This demeanour of thankfulness is a great place to start, by just acknowledging everything you have from the smallest things to the biggest will give you a sense of self and understanding.
Even if you think you have nothing, you are wrong. You can start with the simplest thing such as the ability to breathe or think and move on upwards to the car you drive or the food you eat and the people that love you and you can just keep on going.
There are any number of ways to develop this habit from just listing those things you are grateful for outloud or indeed writing them down. You could use a focus such as beads or a stone, to count those gifts. Find one that works for you and give it a try, you will be surprised how it works upon you. You are in good company as the most successful people in the world adopt this attitude.
Genuine & Authentic
Being humble is based on your authenticity, people will see through disingenuous behaviour especially of this kind. For your humility and gratitude to stick, most importantly, with you but also in the hearts and minds of others that you interact with, it needs to come from the right place. This place must be the authentic and true gratitude that you feel. This is saying ‘Thank You’ and meaning it, this is the thing that opens doors and makes people discover your charm.
You will not get far in the art of being charming, with a smarmy smile and false humility. It will work for a short burst, but like a politician it will quickly becoming wearing, thin and fail to cover all the cracks. Keep your sense of being grounded and true and the charm will flow.
Understanding the Past
One other part to Humility, that I want to highlight here, which though has some to do with being charming, but all to do with the core value. It will filter through to all aspects of what we talk about at the Perfect Gentleman, is the respect and understanding of the past. As George Santayana once wrote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
We need to look to the past and specifically our past in the a way to make sure that we understand where we have come from, the journey that we have been on and the place we are heading to. We need to make sure we have learnt the lessons from the past and we are not repeating the mistakes. We need to understand those lessons from our parents and our grandparents to see the sacrifices they made for us to be standing here now. A look to the past will always give us perspective and that is part of what humility is.
Being self-effacing is the public face of humility, it is going about your business not drawing attention to yourself, in deed being modest. If taken to an extreme then this trait can be a negative one, based on timidity it can be the cause of self-destruction.
This certainly is not the kind of self-effacing behaviour we are talking about. We are talking about the confident kind, the ability to poke fun at yourself. As a gentleman, we should generally let our actions speak for themselves as well. This will is the self-effacing character we want to display.
Confident Self-Effacing Behaviour
This is the kind of self-effacing behaviour that comedians and the British do so well. It is the the element of admitting your mistakes and failures and making a joke at your own expense. If you have a failing highlight it; perhaps a story that makes you look like a fool, then tell it. We are always a great source of stories like this and as it is a tale, you can always embellish a little for effect.
The reason that this works so well is confident people have no need to inflate themselves. By telling these stories and making these jokes, you show that you have the ability to make fun out of your misfortune, it shows people that you are secure in yourself indeed even powerful.
Look at one of the great charmers and raconteurs, David Niven, using this to great effect –
The Fine Line
In the art of being charming there is a fine line to be taken with this trait. You do need to be humble, you do need to be self-effacing but there is a path you must not take, that of making it the only thing you do. Therefore it will be the only thing you are know for. It is then you will not be charming and those people will not be drawn to you but shy away from you.
Charm requires balance, indeed give and take; light and dark; fun and seriousness. You need to be able to be humble and self-effacing and at the same time confident and witty. You need to always balance the Gentle with the Man.
Next week we talk – Wit, if humility and self-effacing is the shield, then wit is your sword!