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The new Azabudai Hills district in Tokyo (Raquel Diniz / Wallpaper)

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Charisma is your secret AI contingency strategy

Vanessa Van Edwards is a best selling author and public speaker with a very succinct formula for charisma (Maggie Kirkland)

Everyone knows charisma when they see it, but people have a surprisingly hard time defining it, exactly.

Here’s the Cambridge Dictionary: “the ability to attract the attention and admiration of others.”

And here’s Wikipedia: “a personal quality of presence or charm that others find compelling.”

But those both feel a bit incomplete, in trying to describe a magnetic and enjoyable, charismatic person.

Charisma feels like much more than that, doesn’t it?

The best selling author and speaker Vanessa Van Edwards has a more nuanced —and more exact— definition for us, borne out of a scientific study that caught her attention.

A groundbreaking study from Princeton University found that warmth and competence are two of the most important traits humans can signal. They make up 82% of our judgments of others.

And this formula isn’t just at play when making a first impression. Any time people interact with you, they scan your body language, voice, and face for cues to gauge your warmth and competence.

And we are constantly doing the same to others. When we meet people we want to know:

Can I trust you? (Warmth)

Can I rely on you? (Competence)

Whether you are in a business meeting, on a date, with your boss, or with new friends, managing your warmth and competence is essential for your success.

Highly charismatic people exhibit the perfect blend of these two traits.

Vanessa Van Edwards, “What Makes Someone Charismatic?”

This formula (charisma = warmth + competence) suggests that charismatic people not only possess enough skill and knowledge to be effective at what they do, but that they also radiate a welcoming, engaging energy that people just want to be around.

Sounds simple enough, right? Bringing it to life. Now, that’s the complicated part.

See, true charisma comes from a dynamic interplay of these elements —more calculus than arithmetic, if that makes sense.


Sidebar: A lot of people (ie., me) throw the word calculus around when we mean complicated and fluid. But what even is calculus?

Well, calculus is a type of math that tries to make sense of the real world with numbers. Calculus, which has been credited to numerous inventors over the centuries, helps us understand things that we can’t see at first glance.

It’s used to calculate how much things grow by and shrink by (ie., speeds, or heights). That’s differential calculus. Integral calculus, by comparison, helps us measure things that are hard to measure in usual ways. Imagine breaking down really hard-to-measure things into lots of tiny, way-easier-to-measure pieces, in order to figure out that larger, total amount.

OK, sidebar over.


In our view, knowing your warmth x competence calculus will be increasingly important as AI takes over more of our collective cognitive load.

In the calculus of charisma, warmth and competence are not fixed quantities: Vanessa shows how we can ramp each one up or down depending on our natural predilections and contexts.

Seen this way, warmth and competence are more like functions, with each influencing the other, and evolving over time and context.

AI doing our busy work means that we humans now have more opportunity to focus on developing higher order skills. And this is more than just a nice to have. As AI rapidly evolves, understanding, cultivating, and displaying charisma will actually become about much more than mere personal development for you and me.

It will become a core strategic business advantage.


The exciting prospect here lies not just in understanding charisma as a formula but in embracing the deeper human components that give it life.

Your emotional depth, your adaptability, and your unique journey/personal growth are what will fuel your charisma.

This is important because, in a world where AI handles the facts and figures, your human qualities —your warmth, your empathy, and the trajectory of your personal and professional growth— will be your strategic advantage.

In a recent interview, the CEO of ChatGPT parent company OpenAI, said that he believes AI will rank as the single most important invention in the history of humanity, and suggests getting good at all kinds of AI tools, like, now.

In the coming weeks, months, and years, we will find out whether or not he is right about that.

But as you get good at AI tools, do not forget how your human charisma (warmth x competence) can multiply your influence, increase your connections, and boost your impact —as well as your income potential.


What Makes Someone Charismatic? by Vanessa Van Edwards »»

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Written by Jon Kallus. Thanks for reading.

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