Welcome to the first in our new series of articles about ‘The Art of Charm’. Over the next 6 weeks we will explore everything you need to be charming. “What?” I hear you cry, “Charm is not a skill that can be taught, you are either born with it or not. You are either George Clooney or Cary Grant, or you are David Brent from the Office.” We at PG disagree, it is indeed a skill and you can be taught it. And that, hopefully, is what we will do over the course of the next few weeks.
I was a very sick child and until I was 11 years old, I spent about 70% of my time in hospital or in bed. It was a challenge to make friends, to engage with others and to know how to build social interactions. When I started to get better and went to school, I realised I was missing something. During those years of being ill, I had formed a love of movies and especially the movies of Cary Grant, David Niven, William Powell and Peter Ustinov. I realised that these men were people I wanted to aspire to be. So, I took it upon myself to learn from them and my path of learning the Art of Charm began.
Some people might be naturally better at being charming, just as some are better at playing football or any other skill, but that does not mean that you can’t learn the skill, get better at it and even excel at it. All it takes is a little effort. We are here to help by giving the framework within which to learn these skills and providing top tips to make it easier. Even if you are a natural charmer, in the next few weeks we will provide some elements that will help you become even better.
So, what is charm and why it is such an important skill to learn?
According to the dictionary, charm has a number of meanings. We shall gloss over the references to trinkets and good luck, but here are it’s core meanings:
- a power of pleasing or attracting through personality or beauty
- any action supposed to have a magical power
- to be fascinating or pleasing
- to act upon someone or something with or as with a compelling or magical force
Charm it seems has a magical quality about it, something that cannot be explained. The word’s etymology stems from the medieval French word charme, which meant a spell, magic or incantation. In the mid 15th century this has evolved in English to be about ‘winning someone over’.
We can understand why people believe charm is magic, a spell that people cast over others, a mythical thing that is only imbued upon a few chosen people. This myth is the one that has perpetuated, as it easier to believe that you are just gifted with something, that you have to be a movie star or some slick lothario who has all the moves. It puts this skill on a pedestal, but as all magicians will tell you in secret, the key to being a truly successful magician is learning key skills such as misdirection and sleight of hand, there is little of the mystical about it. Their goal is to make the audience believe that their tricks are due to their control over the mystical element of ‘magic’, which means that you could never do it. The same can be said for charm.
What is the very nature of charm or indeed being charming? According to some, it is part chivalry and part confidence, to others it is about wit and romance, to others it is being pleasing and self-effacing. It can be all these things and more, which makes it intriguing. As charm itself can be all things to all people and some can see it as harmless flirting or others just a deftness of wit. The art and skill of being a charm is to embody all these elements and make everyone be charmed but experience that charm in different ways.
In truth the underlying principle of being charming is how you make the other person or people feel. That feeling must be positive and potentially that positivity is directed towards you. In order to do that effectively you must engage with people on an emotional level and do this quickly. This is the skill of building rapport and is the first thing you do when being charming, but will be the last thing we discuss over the course of these articles. We need first to conquer the challenges of confidence, but that is next week’s lesson.
Why is charm so important? Sometimes it seems that charm has fallen out of favour, it is given mythical status from a bygone era. Modern celebrities are actually highlighted and praised for their instances of charm, but they are few and far between in the digital age of today, yet those that are great exponents of the art form are the most successful in their fields.
I am afraid to say that it is even rarer in business, as we took on a certain ruthless edge in the 70s and 80s and that has yet to work itself out of the business cultural ethos, though once again those that are charming do stand out from the crowd.
People will always buy from, do deals with, make friends with and fall in love with people in person. No matter what occurs in the digital age, it is always about human interaction. Therefore charm, which is a speedy and delightful way to build rapid and engaging rapport with other people, from those you want to do business with to those you want to make friends with and more.
Charm is the ‘A’ grade grease to the wheels of social interaction; it will aid you in business meetings, networking events and any manner of social situations. It is a way to be remembered and stand out from the crowd.
The Art of Charm will smooth the dangerous corridors of climbing the corporate ladder as you will always need people to make any business work and having people on your side and engaged with you will do that. Charm can be construed as part of the art of flirting and therefore will make the approaches and initial contact with those you like even easier and indeed that much more fun.
In essence, charming people are remembered long after they have left the room.
The 4 key elements to being charming are confidence, humility, wit and presence. It is the combination of these elements that make up the essence of charm, over the next few weeks we will cover how to develop, learn and practice these elements and how they make up what is charm. We will give you practical exercises and top tips to make you as smooth as a Hollywood star in no time.
Let us put a caveat into proceedings right now, though view we charm as a skill that can be taught, it needs to come from an authentic place within you. You have to be genuine when you do it, coming from a place of grace deep down. If not, if it is just an affectation or there for nefarious ends or a dark place, it will come across as creepy, wrong and slimy. You might be able to hide it for a while but it will come out in the end, the skill may be taught but the reasons need to be pure.
Let’s start with some preparation, as we always do at The Perfect Gentleman. Begin by watching some celebrity experts in the Art of Charm, such as David Niven, Cary Grant, George Clooney and Hugh Jackman. These men show how to tell tales, engage with the interviewer and the audience. Don’t watch their movies, but the interviews with these great charmers and, if you have time, read their biographies.
On with the show, let’s make the world that little bit more pleasant and charming.