The Charisma Myth, Olivia Fox Cabane (Review/Summary)

I recently finished re-reading The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane and today I want to share some of its lessons with you and give you my recommendation. This book falls firmly into the practicable camp, rather than Seven Habits, which was a lot more foundational. I prefer the practical books, though, since I already know the fact that without internal change then there’s no real change at all, just a different set of clothes on the same mannequin, and that it takes time and consistent practice for any new behaviours to sink into our muscle memory and become part of our identity.

One of my favourite parts of the book is how Cabane breaks down charisma into its constituents: presence, power and warmth. Charisma is a hard topic to approach and so by breaking it down we can start to get a handle on it. It’s similar to a regular guy asking himself “what do women find attractive?” and then being told that women find high SMV males attractive, and that you can break SMV down into looks, status and charisma/vibe. Another example might be trying to identify parts of your personality, and so you take the Myers Briggs test. The breakdown doesn’t have to encompass the whole, but it’s a very useful starting point.

Presence is just… presence. We all know what presence is, or at least feels like, but if I were to try to describe it then I would say that it is mainly the feeling people get that you listen to them as well as the fact that you have an impact on the room. We can immediately increase our presence by introducing a few behaviours:

  • Speaking slightly slower than usual
  • Moving slightly slower than usual
  • Taking a second before responding to what someone says
  • Ensuring we stay (literally) present by bringing a wandering mind back to our breathing, or, as Cabane suggests, the sensation in our toes

Presence contains the confidence in our ability to hold people’s attention, and therefore those with presence don’t rush to speak or press their own viewpoints. You can imagine a benevolent king sitting on his throne, stroking his beard, as various people present their cases to him.

Next up is power. Many Daygamers like to take on the rocker look and this automatically increases their perceived power because of the connotations. The same could be achieved through signs of high status such as expensive clothes. Power is, of course, shown by height and muscularity. But power is only a blunt instrument without…

Warmth. This is something many Daygamers miss out on when they try to push to “be more alpha” or come from a bad mentality towards women. Power can win the day with girls who want hard dominance but without warmth you’re going to have to specialise in those cases. In the book Cabane provides some useful visualisation techniques which can help you to increase the amount of warmth you convey. I’ve also found that giving yourself some warmth-cues help, such as following Instagram accounts which make you smile and mechanically smiling for ten seconds.

When these three factors are present, Cabane says, you are charismatic. You’re the kind of person who has a lot of power and could hurt someone else, if you wanted to, but choose not to, and in fact can help the person.

Cabane also goes through the various obstacles to displaying charisma such as physical discomfort, as well as different types of charisma, such as what an extrovert might show compared to an extrovert, and how to balance out high levels of the different types.

Overall, this book gets my recommendation and I think you should read it. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I’ve added it into my daily charisma habit, and so now I’m reading five pages of this, along with a chapter of How To Win Friends.

Yours unfaithfully,

Thomas Crown

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8 thoughts on “The Charisma Myth, Olivia Fox Cabane (Review/Summary)

  1. Can I ask how much fluff this book contains and how much it is padded out?
    What I hate about American self Help authors is that 2/3rds of their book they tell you how much your life will change if you apply their secret sauce and only 1/3rd (at best) is the actual secret sauce. Also many feel compelled to go into story after story meant to illuminate their teachings but which in fact often completely bury the actual takeaways.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d say it’s 50% practical and 50% anecdotes. I wouldn’t call it fluff, myself, since the imagining the tips in action helps them to get into our brains, though I admit there is a lot of “I used this technique then made the biggest sale of my life” style stories in there. It’s a short book though – it will hardly cost you much effort to read – and so I think it’s worth it.


  2. Some feedback: listened to chapter 5 so far and Im liking the book. Already did some of the excercises. In fact in the past couple if days I did the excercises for getting present regularly. Good recommendation.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy changed my life back in 2013 and I was happy to see its founder mentioned in Olivia Fox Cabane’s book. Steve Hayes was mentioned in the chapter of “becoming comfortable with discomfort”, where we’re asked to embrace and accept negative feelings that might show up.

    ACT has been my go to philosophy for almost a decade and I still use its techniques. I’ll definitely be adding the other tips from Charisma Myth to my arsenal.

    5/5 book and recommendation

    Liked by 2 people

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