Charming people always seem to steal the show. Have you ever gone to a party and met someone new who livened everything up and made you feel understood and completely entertained? You may not have been able to pinpoint exactly what made them so enthralling, but odds are you wished you could bottle their charisma.
Well, it turns out that you don’t need a potion to charm the people around you, and you don’t need perfect skin, glossy hair, or eyelash extensions, either. Because the secret to being charming is that isn’t about you at all. It’s about the people around you and how you make them feel.
You can be the wittiest, prettiest woman in the room, but, if you’re focused inward instead of focusing on those you’re trying so hard to win over, you’re going to come up short in the charisma department. You don’t even need to be a major extrovert — you just have to care. While it may take some getting used to when you start, eventually it’ll be the most natural thing in the world. Here’s the real effortless way to always be charming. (Spoiler alert: It takes some effort, but it feels good!)
Ask questions and really listen to the answers if you aim to charm
Active listening is one of the most underused but most important skills in a would-be charmer’s arsenal. Susan Petang of The Quiet Zone Coaching told The List, "In social situations, Active Listening can be useful to even the shyest people. Everyone loves to talk about themselves and their interests. By asking questions and paying attention to the responses, you can have wonderful conversations and learn a lot about what makes people tick — and be the most charming person in the room."
Okay, so how do you do that? Latch on to something the other person says and ask as many follow-up questions as you can without it sounding like an interrogation. For example, if you’re speaking with someone who says they’re a standup comedian, you can ask, "What was your first joke?" If you can’t think of specific questions, just say something along the lines of, "Wow! Tell me more about X."
One warning: If you’re talking with a professional in a personal setting (think meeting a dentist at a party), try not to make them work: Don’t ask her why your molars are sore!
Repeating what you hear is super charming
One component of active listening, Susan Petang of The Quiet Zone Coaching said, is repetition. Repeating what a speaker says back to them indicates that you’re listening to them and seeking to understand what they’re saying. And don’t worry about sounding like a parrot! Petang explained, "Active listening is a technique where you really pay attention to what the other person is saying, rather than considering what your next response will be, summarize and repeat back the essence of the message, then ask questions." For example, if the person you’re talking to says, "My legs are sore because I just ran my first half-marathon," you could reply, "A half-marathon! That’s awesome. So your legs feel like rubber-bands now?" It’s not an exact mimicry — rather it peppers in a compliment and a question that makes clear you got the message that they sent you.
By responding in this way, you’re showing that you’re listening, and you’re including an open-ended question that will keep the conversation going.
Watch your language — your body language, that is
A secret Jedi mind trick to getting people to like you: Mimic their movements. If they nod, nod back. Are they reaching for their drink? Take a sip of your own. If they cross their legs, cross yours. This technique is called "mirroring," and often it happens naturally when you’re speaking with someone with whom you have a connection — but doing so deliberately helps you to build a connection if you didn’t have one already. You can also mirror the other person’s vocal tempo and volume to make them feel comfortable around you. Mirroring helps the other party feel understood. However, be careful to be subtle about mirroring and to only do it when you’ve already established eye contact and a bit of a rapport with the other person.
Leading up to that, dating coach Claudia Cox of Text Weapon has some advice for how to make your body language portray you as open and warm. She said to keep your arms open and don’t cross your legs, which can send the subconscious message that you’re emotionally as closed off as you are physically.
Nothing says charming like smiling with your eyes
It sounds too simple to be true, but a smile goes a long, long way. Caleb Backe, life coach and wellness expert for Maple Holistics, explained to The List, "Your facial expression is your silent form of communication. If you want to be charming without trying too hard, make an effort to smile more. When you smile, you’re telling others that you’re open to communication."
That said, not all smiles are created equal. If you’ve seen any episodes of America’s Next Top Model, you understand the importance of "smizing"—smiling with your eyes. When you smile genuinely, your eyes squint just a bit, whereas a forced smile is isolated to just the muscles in your mouth and jaw. A natural smile won’t just feel better while you’re doing it, but it also conveys on a subconscious level that you’re friendly and trustworthy, while a tense jaw and a clenched grin conveys the absolute antithesis of that.
Be more interested than you are interesting
Being charming means making the people around you feel interesting and special — because they will associate those sweet feelings with being around you. Executive life coach Hans Schumann advised, "All you need to do is to ask questions about them and about topics that [interest] them. This simple method is particularly good for introverts who sometimes find it more difficult to keep a conversation going." He explained that smiling and offering words of encouragement to the person you’re speaking to may lead them to believe you’re "charming and fun to be with." However, he warned that it’s best not to "overdo" it "to the point that the conversation becomes a one-sided interview."
That said, you don’t need to only pay the other person attention. Want to chat about yourself? Give strangers an icebreaker to work with, whether it’s a piece of statement jewelry, a T-shirt from your favorite band’s last tour, or even just a sparkly manicure.
Making people around you feel great is beyond charming
Charming people aren’t just lively conversationalists. They also have a way of making you feel warm and fuzzy and just plain good after interacting with them. New York City sexologist and relationship expert Laurel Steinberg, Ph.D. informed The List, "Being charming means that you are well received by others who have enjoyed being in your company. To accomplish this goal, simply consider what you’d like the other person to feel around you. Once you know, whip up the words and gestures that would make you feel that if someone behaved that way towards you."
That said, you may want people to feel differently depending on the context of your interactions. Dr. Tessina advised, "Match your energy to the energy of the people at the event. Obviously, if you’re dancing or eating barbecue poolside, the energy level will be pretty high. If you’re having quiet conversations at a cocktail party, discussing books, or sitting down to dinner, the energy will be more mellow and focused."
Remembering people’s names is one thing charming people do
Few things make people feel worse than being forgotten, so a great way to charm a new person in your life is by simply remembering his or her name. It can be tricky to keep track of everybody you encounter, especially if you’re meeting a bunch of new people at the same time, but there are some tricks to make it a bit easier. "International Man of Memory" Chester Santos recommended repeating the person’s name when you’re first introduced. For example, if your partner introduces you to his Uncle Kenny, say, "So nice to meet you, Uncle Kenny!"
Ron White, two-year National Memory Championship winner, told The List to ask yourself what the person’s name is before being introduced, forcing you to focus on getting the answer. You can also focus on something striking about the person’s appearance (like their blue eyes) or a mental image of the person that helps you remember their name (like picturing Uncle Kenny in an orange parka like Kenny from South Park).
And just in case you encounter someone and you’re not sure whether or not you’ve met before, use the fail-safe "so great to see you," as opposed to "so great to meet you."
Mind your manners if you want to charm
It seems incredibly basic, but, believe it or not, it needs to be said: Have good manners! You don’t necessarily need to know which fork is for salad and which is for shrimp, but simple things like saying "please" and "thank you" and excusing yourself when necessary can go a long way. Using manners shows that you’re considerate of others, which makes people want to be around you, explained life coach and wellness expert for Maple Holistics Caleb Backe.
"On your quest to become effortlessly charming, practice respect. Someone who respects others and is well-mannered believes that they are an equal among their peers," Backe said. "There’s nothing more charming than treating others with respect, because respect suggests the ability to empathize and look beyond yourself." This means not just being polite to everyone else at a party or at your table when you’re out to dinner, but also being kind to your waiter, bartender, cab driver, or even just the person ahead of you in line for the restroom.
Charming people should be present in the moment
A big part of being charming is being present. If you’re fully immersed in the moment you’re in and in the conversation that you’re having, you’re going to have a much better time, which means everyone else around you will, too. So don’t fret about the future! Enjoy the now.
Life coach Stacy Caprio told The List, "Part of being effortlessly charming is not being attached to the outcome of an interaction with any person, such as trying to push toward making the person your significant other, your friend, trying to impress them or even trying to make them want to see you again." She added, "Instead, being fully present in the moment with the person, not expecting anything in return or trying to push for anything, is one of the secrets of being irresistibly charming, and ironically leads to the other person actually wanting to be around you more without you having to push for it."
That said, without being married to an outcome, you can still follow up with your potential new pals. Dr. Tessina shared that an invitation to drinks or coffee is low-pressure and will make the other person feel special without feeling smothered.
Do your homework before leaving the house if you want to charm
If you get tongue-tied when you’re meeting new people or when you’re in a group setting, do some homework before heading out to whatever event you’ll be attending. Tina B. Tessina, PhD. (aka "Dr. Romance"), psychotherapist and author of Dr. Romance’s Guide to Finding Love Today, recommends scanning headlines and chatting about pop culture as a means to get your fellow guests to open up. "Read up on some fascinating topics to talk about — the background doings of a hit movie, some new technology advance, or a cool new trend," Dr. Tessina told The List. "Then, when someone wants to talk to you, you’ll have something to say."
If you aren’t sure where to start, take a glance at Google Trends to see what people are reading and searching for currently. You can even pinpoint it to see what’s hot in your specific region, which may be an interesting topic in and of itself. For example, Taylor Swift has more searches than Kim Kardashian in 43 out of 50 states.
Give specific compliments to really charm people
Pay attention to your surroundings, including the people within them, and use them to help you win everyone in the room over. Dr. Tina B. Tessina, psychotherapist and author, told The List, "Look around you, and seek to make friends. Notice who’s around you and what’s interesting or attractive about them. Find an interesting thing about what they’re wearing, and compliment it." The key here isn’t a generic compliment like "Nice dress!" It needs to be much more specific, and it should usually be followed with — you guessed it — a question. For example, you could say, "What an interesting watch! Where did you get it?" Or you could say something like, "That purple eyeshadow looks incredible! Do you always coordinate your makeup to your outfits?"
Being specific makes the other person feel seen, which makes the interaction feel more true and less like mindless schmoozing. Asking an open-ended question will keep the other person talking and will make them feel like you’re intrigued by them as a person. Nice!
Help your hosts if you want to seem charming
If you’re at a party and feeling shy or awkward and unsure of how to approach anyone, making yourself useful will ease your nerves and make your host or hostess’ life easier. Psychotherapist and author Dr. Tina B. Tessina said that volunteering for a task endears you not just to the hosts of an event, but also to the other guests because it shows you’re considerate and helpful. This is especially true if it’s your first time at a given event.
"If you haven’t experienced this event before, I recommend finding a ‘job’ to do. Don’t just say ‘What can I do to help?’ Instead, volunteer for something specific: to greet people and take coats, or keep the food table replenished, or refill drinks," Dr. Tessina suggested when speaking to The List. "It will give you a feeling of belonging, a great excuse to meet everyone, and you’ll be busy enough to keep your nervousness at bay. The host or hostess will be grateful and remember you later."
Don’t one-up everybody if you want to be charming
Listen, if a party guest talks about baking a killer red velvet cake and you too are known for your scrumptious scarlet desserts, don’t try to assert dominance over the other person in your area of specialty. That’s just going to annoy them. When speaking to The List, life and communication coach Maryna Shkvorets advised, "Don’t just use this as an invitation to talk about yourself — actually listen and engage. Your turn to share something charming will come!"
Instead, use your common ground as an opportunity to ask the other person questions and build a rapport that will make them feel valued and important. For example, instead of mentioning that you’ve won 11 blue ribbons at various bake-offs for your own red velvet recipe, ask him or her for a tip: "Do you have a secret ingredient?" or "You know, I love baking red velvet cake, but I get really bored with sifting all that flour. Do you have any shortcuts for that?"
The best way to be charming is to be yourself
Psychotherapist and owner of Create Your Life Studio Christine Scott-Hudson had the best advice ever: Be your unique self and embrace it.
"Be silly, be uncool, but just let yourself be genuine. People love unique personalities," Scott-Hudson told The List about being charming. "You may have spent your formative years trying desperately to fit in, but the truth is, it’s even cooler to stand out! Let yourself love what you love! If you have a dorky hobby or a nerdy obsession, allow yourself to enjoy your own interests! It is boring to be cool all of the time."
This also means giving yourself permission to enjoy guilty pleasures without guilt. "Love the Ren Faire? Are you obsessed with LARPing?" Scott-Hudson asked. She explained, "The heart wants what it wants, as they say," elaborating, "Don’t waste your life in the box labeled ‘cool.’ … By allowing yourself to be genuinely, authentically you, you are giving permission for everyone around you to be themselves, as well (and that’s pretty endearing)."