There are certain people that you simply can’t forget upon meeting, no matter how brief your initial encounter with them was. They are the ones whose eyes sparkle even in the most mundane moments—the ones who tell a story and immediately draw an audience, as though they were a Broadway performer on stage.
When they enter a room, you subconsciously gravitate toward them, as though their presence has some sort of magnetic pull over yours. Even if you are not attracted to them physically, you want to be near them—to stand as close to them as possible and to enter into that fiery enthusiasm that reminds you what it means to be alive.
It can often seem as though such individuals were simply born with extroverted, charming personalities, while the rest of the population was designed to serve as members of their audience. Almost everyone wants to experience the spark of human connection, however, or the rush of confidence that comes with being in the center of attention—even if we do not admit it.
The quest to capture people’s interest or to resonate deeply with another individual springs from our fundamental human desire to feel worthy. Although charisma may not come as naturally to everyone as it does to some, who is to say that it must be reserved for an elite few?
As college students, there seems to be an unspoken expectation for us to “find ourselves” while on campus—to discover who we are, where we’re going, and what we’re most passionate about. Though this is positive in some ways, it also can lead us to feel a sense of urgency, as though we must have everything figured out in a matter of four short years.
Thus, we often end up labelling ourselves prematurely: the freshman chemistry major accepts that he will never be good at making smalltalk. The introverted bookworm believes BC social life is just not for her. The senior who hates public speaking says she will never be a successful leader in the workplace.
Convinced that “charisma” is simply not in their DNA, such individuals begin to seek validation in more solitary endeavors. They strive to receive a perfect GPA by spending every waking hour in the library. They join every competitive service group on campus. They commit themselves to going for 10-mile runs before the first rays of dawn.
While such discipline is honorable, I think that a certain danger arises when we become hyper-focused on our personal quests for success. A critical part of the college experience is forging friendships and devoting time to being with other people. Even if this time is spent sitting on the floor of your dorm room talking with friends, or taking an hour out of your day to have lunch in Eagles, rather than on the fourth floor of the library, it is time well spent.
Rather than viewing college as a time to refine ourselves into superhuman task masters, let us use this chapter of our lives to master the art of connection. The ability to find humor in everyday life—to make light of daily difficulties in the dorm, for example, or to laugh at our own imperfections—allows us to more deeply relate to the people around us.
In order to acquire charisma, I believe we must first become vulnerable. By acknowledging the insecurities and the challenges that we all struggle with, we immediately become more accessible to the people around us, for we allow them to see a reflection of themselves within us. Not only does this quality of openness benefit us socially in college, but I believe it also will serve as a valuable skill down the road, in social networking and business relations.
In my opinion, charisma—whether it be at a party or in the workplace—is the ability to make people resonate with you. It’s about casting light on a feeling, a circumstance, or a situation which we all experience and articulating it in a way that reminds us of our innate connectedness to one another.
At the end of the day, I believe acquiring this quality is just as important as being able to check off everything on your individual to-do list or scoring an “A” on your midterm exam.
Of course, this does not mean that we must seek to be the center of attention all of the time. We do not have to draw an audience in order to forge connections. For some, charisma may simply mean listening to and being fully present for another human being. For others, it means dancing in the spotlight like a Broadway performer.
I believe what is most important is not how we represent ourselves to others, but rather that we recognize we are not truly separate from them at all—that no matter how different we may seem from another person, classmate, or business partner, we are inevitably connected by the quest to know what it means to be alive.
Featured Image by Zoe Fanning / Heights Editor