Meet the only man in India who trains people in the art of charisma

Think of people like our PM Narendra Modi, or even the late Rajiv Gandhi, think of Barack Obama or Aishwarya Rai and Amitabh Bachchan. These are all charismatic people; they command attention wherever they go. They are sharply dressed, they speak eloquently and exude confidence.

And now, there is a way you can be trained to be all of the above.

Meet Danish Sheikh. Charisma Coach.

At age 18, he got his first job in an IT firm. At 20, he worked as a consultant with Microsoft, and at 22, he was the youngest international product manager in Yahoo India. But charisma, he says, always fascinated him and he continued doing research on the topic during his free time.

"Eventually I was able to develop a step-by-step teaching system, which helps one to become remarkably charismatic. I started delivering guest talks in business schools and soon Charisma Coaching changed from a hobby to passion and now this is what I see myself doing for the rest of my life," he says.

We got an opportunity to speak to him recently about his life and how "learning" to be charismatic can change one's life. Interested? Here are the excerpts from the talk.

How do you define charisma?

Charisma is what allows you to command a room, draw others to you and convince people of your ideas. Charismatic people are perceived as both likeable and powerful; an irresistible combination that opens endless doors of opportunity. Thanks to the research by sociologists, cognitive and behavioral scientists, we now understand charisma as a set of behaviors that can be learned, practiced and mastered. With the right guidance and practice, anybody can become remarkably charismatic. Charisma comprises three major components: Presence, Value and Warmth. Different combination of these components results in many different Charisma styles like Authority (think Barack Obama), Visionary (think Steve Jobs) and Kindness (think Dalai Lama).

Is there a scientific approach to learn charisma?

Of course. For example, in one controlled lab experiment, it was proven that people could lower and raise their level of charisma, almost like turning a door knob. In fact, researchers at the MIT media lab were able to predict the outcomes of sales calls, negotiations, and business plan pitches with 87% accuracy, not by listening to a single word of content, but by analyzing voice fluctuations and the facial expressions of the person pitching.

A little about your early life.

I was born and brought up in Indore, which was a pretty small town back then. I was an introverted kid, which continued through my teenage years. I was terrible at academics and flunked exams pretty regularly. I was plagued with a lot of insecurities, with not many friends to play and hangout with. My life took a turn at the age of 16, when I came across Dale Carnegie's "How to win friends and influence people", which gave me hope that if I work on certain aspects of my personality, I can probably acquire some cool friends in my life.

Later I started reading all kinds of self-help books to apply this newfound theoritical knowledge to real world social scenarios, which wasn't easy, but I didn't give up. After a few years of trial and error and interacting with complete strangers in different social settings, I was not just able to become socially savvy and good with people, but also started to reap benefits from the opportunities that came my way. That's when I realized for the first time how displaying certain behavioural traits can have a dramatic positive effect on people's perception.

How important dressing well is. A little about that. How does that impact others?

Physical appearance is as important as the mental state. Dressing plays a big role in boosting an individual's confidence. Like it or not, people judge us by the way we look and that includes the way we dress.

According to a series of studies published in the Evolution and Human Behavior journal, designer labels can provide an advantage. Here are some findings:
-    A man wearing a shirt featuring a designer logo was rated as having a higher status than the same man with logo photoshopped out. A woman wearing a sweater with a designer logo got response rate of 52% (versus 13% for the same woman wearing sweater sans logo) when asking passers-by to take a survey.
-    Participants watching a man interviewing for a job found him more suitable for the job and deserving 9% higher salary when he was wearing the shirt with a designer logo than the same man without a logo on the shirt.
-    Wearing a designer logo resulted in twice as many contributions when soliciting for charity.

Power dressing can significantly boost your persona, as long as you dress relevant to the occasion.

How does culture in different countries influence charisma coaching?

The roots of Charisma Coaching lies in the Evolutionary and Cognitive behaviors, which are hard-wired in humans, irrespective of their country of residence and culture. For example: The universal signal of recognition and acknowledgement is the "Eyebrow Flash", which requires you to slightly raise your eyebrows and open your eyes slightly more than normal. That said, certain nuances and finer aspects of charisma coaching vary with respect to social customs and culture but the basic principles mostly remain unchanged.

Body language -- that is a major part of our personality and how people judge us -- some tips on how to conquer that.

Our brain is programmed to makes snap judgements about everyone we come across to sort them in one of the following two major categories: Friend or Foe.

Charismatic people are good at triggering friend response in the people around them by demonstarating behaviors that the brain perceives as friendly.

Smile, open posture, soft eye-contact, relaxed facial expressions and calm voice to name a few can instantaneously put you in people's friend category without them being consciously aware of it.

Top 10 body-language tips to make a charismatic impression:

  • Have a genuine 'flooding' smile

  • Enter a room with chin slightly raised up

  • Greet people with a slight "eyebrow flash"

  • Shake hands to connect instantly with someone

  • Try 'mirroring' to build strong rapport

  • Use fluid hand gestures to explain your point

  • Avoid nodding too much in conversations

  • Avoid putting one or both hands in pocket

  • Don't fidget

  • Touch or pat people to show appreciation


Who do you consider most charismatic in Bollywood?

Shahrukh Khan - I have interacted with him a few times and have also observed him closely at various occasions. He is one of the few stars with an equally powerful charisma on-screen and off. He is very enthusiastic and here is a thing about enthusiasm.. it is infectious! SRK's persona has elements of various charisma styles working together in perfect harmony. He has a strong presence, razor sharp focus and just the right amount of warmth. People who have interacted with him say that he would often go that extra mile to make you feel special. His cocky-funny humor combined with an impeccable dress sense puts him miles ahead on the charisma scale in comparison to his peers.

Aamir Khan has a strong warmth charisma, which can be often observed on his TV show, Satyamev Jayate. On the other end of the spectrum, we have Salman Khan, who commands a powerful authority charisma with a dash of kindness charisma. The super nice, super righteous characters he usually plays in movies add to his offscreen kindness charisma.

Any anecdotes you can share as examples of what you do, and how it helps people?

I once got a phone call from the secretary of an A-list Bollywood actor who wanted to meet me. The actor was supposed to go on a reality TV show the next day, in which he wanted to convey a specific style of charisma. We were really short of time, so I had to conduct an impromtu 2-hour session with him at midnight, in which we focused on visualization techniques, specific body language adjustments, and voice modulation to highlight the desired charisma style. In the end, it was worth the effort and that episode turned out to be very popular.

Can one seem charismatic all the time?

No. Most charimsatic people are good at switching on and switching off at will. In fact some of the most charismatic people I have known and observed may seem completelty uncharismatic when they are all by themselves or in a relaxed social scenario. Being truly charismatic can sometimes be exhausting because it requires one to be in the state of heightened mental and physical awareness. That's why I recommend internalizing the charimsatic behaviors by constant repetition, till they become a part of your natural existence. I like to say, "Don't fake it till you make it, but fake it till you become it."

Do you know any Indian who went through a dramatic transformation to become a charimatic person?

Navjot Singh Siddhu is one of the best examples. We've all heard stories about how he was perceived as uncharismatic when he used to play International cricket for India. The kind of transformation he went through in last 7-10 years is inspirational.

How can one approach you? A little about your workshops, cost etc.

I prefer coaching individuals one-on-one because it allows me to come up with a personalized program plan based on their exact needs. Before commiting to someone, I spend a day with them in their regular work environment, while being as nonobtrusive as possible. I observe their behavioral patterns and assess their Charisma Quotient in various social settings. Based on that I come up with a personalized program that consists of 3-10 sessions. The cost of each hourly session ranges from $100 to $200, depending on the level of engagment. I prefer to sign an NDA while working with most high-profile clients to ensure confidentiality of their business and personal information.

One can reach me through my website or Twitter @CharismaIndia

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