The Power of Charm

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Jan 23, 2016

“When John F. Kennedy flashed his smile, he could charm a bird off a tree.”
Seymour St. John

“No matter how skilled, smart, or experienced you may be, 85 percent of your ability to succeed at anything depends on your ability to win people over, to convince them — to charm them.” When I read those words in the inside jacket of the book “The Power of Charm” by Brian Tracy and Ron Arden, I knew I had to buy the book. 

After hundreds of speeches that Tracy and Arden have given to the thousands of people they have trained to help them be more successful, they have repeatedly said, “The most valuable commodity in the world isn’t gold or diamonds — it’s charm. Your reputation, how people think and talk about you when you are not there, is your most valuable personal and professional asset. It is the sum total of the impression you make on others when they spend time in your presence.” 

What do we mean when we say someone is charming? It actually can be a bit difficult to define. These co-authors are quick to acknowledge that it is not about table manners or good looks or being a snappy dresser. True charm may involve appearance but it is much deeper than that. 

“It is that ability some people have,” they say, “to create extraordinary rapport that makes others in their presence feel exceptional. Charm has an engaging quality to which we respond powerfully and emotionally, almost instinctively.” 

It is true that some people seem to have natural charm but Tracy and Arden write that it is possible to become a more charming person if we implement some of the things they recommend in their book. 

As I read their book, I thought about the people who have been charming toward me. Of course, the first people who come to mind are family members. They are the ones who connect at a deep, personal level and help us feel valued like no one else can. 

I remember how charming my mother used to be. I still recall how she would ask follow-up questions when Evie and I would share with her what was going on in our lives. She always wanted to know the bits and pieces, even though we may have referenced the big things months before. 

About a year ago, I hosted a prolific writer by the name of Gordon here at the University of Valley Forge. I was looking forward to a personal dinner with him and I wanted to get to know him better. His engaging manner to learn about me by asking probing questions disarmed me. He was much more interested in having me talk than having me listen to him. When the evening was over, I was struck by how charming he was.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is said to have once left a dinner party raving about Oscar Wilde’s gift as a conversationalist. “But you did all the talking,” his companion pointed out. “Exactly,” said Doyle.

According to Tracy and Arden, from our eye contact to the nod of our head and from our verbal reassurances to our power of attention, everything adds or detracts from our capacity to be a charming person. Researchers tell us that employers prefer charm over competence almost every time. 

Thokoza, a twentieth century wise woman said, “Charm is captivating. Just as the petals of a flower unfold and open to the warmth and light of the sun, so do we unfold and open to the enchantment of charm. Charm acts as the Great Attractor, drawing us toward its magnetic source.” 

Proverbs 22:29, “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings.” There are many skills that could help us “stand before kings” but one of the most important might be how we exercise the power of charm. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
University of Valley Forge, Phoenixville, Pa. 
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