BEYOND CHARISMA: CONTROL OF THE ATMOSPHERE - You Are the Message - Roger Ailes, Jon Kraushar

You Are the Message - Roger Ailes, Jon Kraushar (1995)

Chapter 9. BEYOND CHARISMA: CONTROL OF THE ATMOSPHERE

“Charisma” is a powerful but often misunderstood word. It derives from the Greek kharisma, meaning favor or divine gift, and its root is kharis, meaning grace. In politics, the idea of charisma came into play a quarter of a century ago, when Jack Kennedy burst upon the American political scene as a presidential candidate. It’s really an old-fashioned word now—it’s like “gee whiz.” Charisma had to do with a look and a style, and today we expect more than that.

Every leader wants to have “charisma” in its modern sense, which the dictionary defines as “a special, inspiring quality of leadership.” Some people seem to have charisma naturally; others work hard to achieve it. Some have it in person but lose it on television.

Charisma is personal confidence as opposed to job confidence—just the sense that someone knows what he or she is doing. Charisma is comfort. It’s the ability to never appear uncomfortable.

Some people define charisma as sex appeal. Some see it as an almost electric vigor or vitality. Some see it as authority. It includes all of these ingredients, but it’s more. It’s really the ability to subtly cause others to react to you as opposed to your reacting to them. People with charisma seem to be in charge of their lives. They seem to have a goal, a purpose, a direction—in fact, a mission.

If you’re famous, you have a kind of automatic charisma. Just think of Robert Redford or Oprah Winfrey. But I’ve also seen charismatic people who are not well-known personalities walk into a room and take charge. Sometimes they use silence, sometimes they use humor. But they cause everybody else in the room to respond to them in a positive way.

HAVE YOU GOT IT?

People who are not necessarily stars can be charismatic. I recall a charismatic cop I met when I was directing a commercial in California. It was a tough law-and-order commercial and we needed a policeman to do it. But we also needed a policeman who could read the TelePrompTer, move well, and take action cues. His job was to come through a dark alley, walk up to a police car with a red light shining on top, lean into the camera, and deliver the entire commercial in twenty-six seconds. That’s a fairly complicated set of directions for a nonprofessional. After a casting search, I was asked to see a man named Jack Hoar. He was a Los Angeles undercover cop who also had done some small movie roles, most notably a tough guy in the film To Live and Die in L.A. Casting on this particular job was critical because even if the performer could do all of the mechanical things correctly, the audience absolutely had to believe his confidence, commitment, and credibility.

After meeting Jack, I hired him without even giving him a test reading. I just knew he could do it. He had charisma. His eyes and voice never wavered. When I asked him if he thought he could do it, he didn’t do an “aw shucks” and look away and say, “I hope so.” He simply looked at me and quietly said, “Yes, I can do it.” We shot one night in an alley in Sacramento. After taking three hours to set the camera track and lights, water down the alley, and line up the camera angles, I called for Jack to come onto the set. He’s six feet three inches, 220 pounds, and all muscle from the neck down, brains from the neck up. He did exactly what we needed. He delivered his lines perfectly on the first take.

However, when you shoot a commercial, you often do what are called safety takes. These are reshoots of the commercial so that when you get in the editing room, you have a choice to cover for a technical problem you may have missed when you were shooting. For example, sometimes cars would go through the shot at the end of the alley where we worked. Or there would be ambient noise on the microphone. Perhaps the camera wouldn’t be precisely focused. Often, when you cue an actor to repeat his performance over and over again, he begins to lose confidence and thus lose that commitment and charisma you need on the screen. Jack never did. He was as steady on take eighteen as he was on take one. We finally produced an excellent commercial. He had the kind of charisma that was not loud or flashy, but whenever he spoke, everyone on the crew listened and answered him with respect.

To determine whether or not you have the ingredients to be charismatic, answer the following questions: What are your real feelings about who you are? What do you believe in? Do you have goals or a mission in life? Do you project optimism? Do others turn to you for leadership? Noncharismatic people spend their lives auditioning for others and hoping they’ll be accepted. Charismatic people don’t doubt their ability to add value to a situation, so they move forward with their mission.

Former Treasury Secretary and Texas Governor John Connally had a great deal of personal charisma. When you were in a room with him, you just felt that he was in charge. I even saw him arrive late for a meeting with cabinet officials and the president. All activity stopped while everyone watched Connally walk all the way around an enormous conference table and sit down. Then the meeting resumed. These were all important people and they stopped for him because he was that imposing. He just moved with that kind of confidence. Very few people have that much presence, but he was one of them. He looked in charge.

Connally’s flaw was that he sometimes came across as arrogant and a little pompous. Those qualities are magnified on a television screen. That’s one of the reasons he never became president.

LBJ

Lyndon Johnson couldn’t translate his earthy, good-old-boy charisma to television, either. But in a room with three or four other people, he had tremendous charisma. In person, Johnson was a larger-than-life character—gruff, coarse, raw-humored, intimidating, and yet magnetic. He just overpowered you. But when he faced the nation on television, he underwent a personality transformation. He became stiff. He attempted to look serious, dignified, and presidential, largely because television was one of the few things that managed to intimidate him. He was afraid that the news media and intellectuals would watch him up close and brand him a hopeless cornpone. The irony is that they did anyway. Johnson should have just skipped the raw language and otherwise been himself on TV. But he always seemed to be auditioning for the public on television instead of letting the medium adapt to him.

THE KENNEDY BROTHERS

Charisma came easily to John Kennedy. With his good looks, his background, his money, he had style and easy grace. But his brother Bobby didn’t have the same charm—at least not on the day I met him. I went to Washington to film Robert Kennedy in his office for a television special that we were doing for Westinghouse Broadcasting. He had a high, thin voice and he sat on the edge of his desk, almost in the fetal position. We had tremendous difficulty getting him to use eye contact or gestures at all. I don’t think I’ve ever been around anyone who was quite as uptight. Now this was sometime after his brother had been killed, probably 1964. He was very polite and answered all the questions, but he could not maintain eye contact or project his voice very well. It was interesting for me to see him later run for president. Somewhere along the way, he must have gained confidence, or else he’d had an off day on the occasion we’d met. More likely, as a presidential candidate he was imbued with a sense of mission—a goal—and many of his communications problems cleared up automatically.

FROM HERE TO ETERNITY

Hubert Humphrey’s one-on-one charisma gave him an amazing ability to work a crowd. I watched him on a street in Philadelphia one day. In a split second, he was able to give everyone he met the impression that he was interested and concerned for them as individuals. He could just touch someone’s hand and use his eyes to make it work. He connected with every person, even though he was moving rapidly toward his car. He imparted a feeling of warmth, so it was impossible to dislike the man. On a personal basis, Humphrey was one of the warmest, nicest people I’ve ever met.

But he, like LBJ, was never able to translate that to television. I once saw him on a talk show. The host asked Humphrey a question and he gave an eleven-minute answer. He just kept talking, and they couldn’t even interrupt him to go to a commercial. Finally, the host started looking off-camera, as if to say, “What the hell did I ask? I don’t know how to get out of this.” Humphrey never understood that television is a time-sensitive medium, and he was never able to get to the point quickly. When he gave a speech on television he strained his voice, and this gave him a strident, high-pitched quality. When he was angry, he sounded whiney instead of tough.

His wife, Muriel, on the other hand, had more charisma than her husband, because she was completely comfortable on television. She was aware of everything and everyone around her. She was just natural without a bit of pretense about her.

ROCKY’S PUNCH

Nelson Rockefeller was the same way. Although he was extremely wealthy, Rocky loved to tell people that he went to public school in New York City up near Harlem, and that he used to roller-skate to school with his Mends. Of course, what he never mentioned was that there was a limousine following behind with bodyguards, and when he and his friends got tired, they got into the limo. But he was great at telling that kind of story and carrying it off.

Nelson could never remember anybody’s name, so everybody was “Hiya, fella, how’s it goin’?” He was very physical. He would touch people, grab the workers’ hands, and look at people directly. Even with the Rockefeller name, wealth, and power, he was able to project himself as “one of the guys.” He left a strong personal impression, and I believe that had a lot to do with his charisma.

THE GAUNTLET

It’s tougher today to be viewed as charismatic. In the heyday of the people just mentioned, the press was not nearly as diligent as it is now in finding and exposing weaknesses in public figures. In fact, many of the faults of these charismatic people didn’t come out until after their deaths. To be considered charismatic on a national—or even local—scale today, you have to run a media gauntlet for a number of years and not allow the reporters to find a skeleton in your closet that can bring you down. Despite this relentless scrutiny, there are still people today whom the public respects and looks up to—people with personal charm who someday may be viewed as charismatic figures.

In popular culture, those who have charisma include John Madden, former coach of the Oakland Raiders football team, who has become a funny, hip, and dynamic television sports commentator. Golfer Lee Trevino is charismatic. He seems comfortable with himself, confident, and likable. Legendary golfer Arnold Palmer has charisma, too, because he’s the grand old man of the sport—and he’s still playing. The longevity of his appeal is notable in our times, when many celebrities rise like comets one month and then fall like shooting stars the next. Palmer is viewed as a man who has lived his life in the way he wanted to live it. That’s the dream of many.

Anatoly (Natan) Sharansky, the Russian Jewish dissident who was finally released after several years in Soviet prisons, is viewed as a hero—a man tempered by the fire of mistreatment, yet good-humored and free-spirited throughout his ordeals. For example, when the Russians released Sharansky, they ordered him to walk perfectly straight across a bridge to his freedom. But in an act of whimsical defiance, he zigzagged in almost Chaplinesque fashion across the bridge. In a pantomime captured by news photographers and understood around the world, Sharansky communicated the truth of the saying that “you have not converted a man because you have silenced him.”

Chuck Yeager has the charisma of an authentic American hero. He flew the X-1 jet, he was nearly killed several times as a test pilot, and he came through World War II as a fighter ace. He’s cool, confident, and unflappable, and he has a good sense of humor. He’s a man who has looked death in the eye and won. People admire that.

Authentic charisma usually requires a lifetime of achievement. Sometimes intense and dramatic events like wars or hijackings provide the circumstances that can give people charisma. For a short time, the inner strengths of a few protagonists are exposed in the public arena. Some people display courage, leadership, faith. These are attributes that can make people charismatic, whether they’re found on the battlefield or in the boardroom.

YOUR CHARISMA QUOTIENT

To summarize, you can measure the degree to which you are charismatic by rating yourself on the following qualities, scoring yourself from a minimum of one (“Not true of me at all”) in ascending numbers to a maximum of five (“Describes me exactly”):

✵ Self-confident (in myself, as opposed to confidence related to my job or material possessions)

✵ Comfortable with myself

✵ Able to make others comfortable

✵ In charge of my life

✵ Having concrete goals and a definable mission (sense of purpose)

✵ Seen by others as a leader

✵ Natural and unpretentious, regardless of circumstances

Add your score up and divide by seven. If your average score is one to two, you need to take stock of yourself. You’re very low overall in charisma. You should think about why you rated yourself as you did and discuss it with a friend or even your boss. Based on suggestions in this book, try to develop an action plan to enhance your personal dynamism.

If your average score is three to four, you have a good charisma quotient. But try formulating a personal action plan, because everyone can improve.

That same advice goes to the few people who average five on this self-evaluation. Those who are very charismatic need the stimulation of challenge. Write down ways you can harness your charisma—new relationships, projects, and goals.

CONTROL OF THE ATMOSPHERE

Regardless of how you scored in the charisma self-evaluation, I feel it’s important that a person use the elements of charisma but move beyond them to something I call control of the atmosphere. Control of the atmosphere is control of the time and space you work in. When you control the atmosphere, you’re not operating on other people’s time. You set your own rate of speed for saying things. You pause and pace your rate of speaking for maximum impact. You have no fear of silence. You’re not reacting to and feeling inhibited by physical space or people. You use gestures; you move effectively, assertively, when and how you please—whether behind a lectern or on the factory floor. You use your eyes, you show a range of emotions, and you modulate your voice with purpose—not like a shotgun scattered all over the room. You look directly into people’s eyes, and you use your voice and eyes like a rifle. In a room of thirty, or fifty, or even a hundred people, you pick out anyone you want to talk to and, boom, you can direct your voice and your eyes to them. Vocally and with your eyes you can express a range of emotions, including amusement, excitement, and even anger, where appropriate. All these abilities are included in control of the atmosphere.

MISSION CONTROL

You can learn to control the time and space you move through, if you really believe in yourself and understand what your mission is in every situation. It helps if you look a certain way, but that doesn’t mean you have to be handsome or beautiful. In fact, many charismatic people do not look as though they’d been stamped out by a cookie cutter. For example, the ascetic-looking Mahatma Gandhi was charismatic. Winston Churchill with his squat, bulldog countenance and trademark cigar was charismatic. Anwar Sadat’s rugged face and proud bearing were charismatic.

In popular culture today, Bruce Willis, star of the Die Hard movie series, has potential charisma. There’s a certain cockiness about him, but an enormous likability. He appears to be Peck’s bad boy with a good heart. If he maintains some humility and doesn’t start believing his own press releases, he can go on to become a long-term charismatic actor. Tom Selleck is not a great actor. He’s a competent actor with terrific looks, but that is not the secret to his charisma. The secret is that while he is very handsome, men are not threatened by him—they like him. Women, of course, are attracted to him and like him. But he appears to have a gentle soul in an enormously masculine body and face. He’s unthreatening and he looks kind. That combination makes him charismatic.

Keep in mind that charisma is not as simple as a look or style. It is frequently a combination of elements which make you different in the eyes of people you meet. You must have your own style. You do have to look strong, confident, grounded, and happy with yourself. You must convey your thoughts and show your feelings with conviction. Humor helps, of course. The ability to not always respond in a predictable manner helps, too. But all this means taking risks, and a lot of people don’t want to do that.

If you’re properly controlling the atmosphere, you’re projecting a likable fearlessness—without arrogance. The ability to do that consistently will take you beyond charisma.

The natural reaction of most people when they encounter a new situation is to find out what’s going on in the room and try to become invisible, to avoid changing or interrupting it. If you’re prepared to go into any kind of communication process and change the flow, you have the opportunity to take control of the atmosphere.

RISK AND REWARD

All of this requires risk. You have to be able to speak up at certain times and move the direction of your thoughts to other people, cause them to react to you for whatever reason. When you do this, however, it must impress the others as being appropriate, relevant, useful, and interesting. Don’t speak up to hear yourself talk or just to insert your opinion. People will turn off.

Some people try to control others by dominating the conversation, talking too slowly, repeating themselves, or using other manipulative techniques, such as showing annoyance at interruptions or refusing to relinquish the floor. That is control in a negative sense and not to be confused with control of the atmosphere.

Control of the atmosphere does not necessarily mean that you do all the talking. In fact, if you learn to ask interesting questions, you can control the topics which are discussed while at the same time opening up the listener and allowing him or her to communicate with you.

BAR NONE

Eavesdrop at the bar of any night spot that is popular with single people. You’ll see and hear the difference between control and control of the atmosphere. Off in the corner you may spot a handsome young man who may be alone—relaxed and quiet—or with friends in easy, lighthearted conversation. He is controlling the atmosphere. Some of the women hoping to meet a nice fellow are probably glancing at him. At some point, another handsome young man will come up to the bar. But he’ll try to control the introduction between himself and a young lady. With a cocky air and an arrogant tone of voice, he might use one of those opening lines which young women have told me they’ve heard: “Are you as good as you look?” or “You’ve got thirty seconds to convince me to stay here.”

People who struggle to control the atmosphere like that never can, much as people who work too hard at trying to be likable usually aren’t. The line of demarcation involves the balance between how you absorb and how you project. If that can sometimes be unclear for you, try this approach: Almost everybody likes a person who is sincerely interested in them and does not dominate the conversation, so start there. A Washington Post reporter once told me that the first time she interviewed Henry Kissinger, he thoroughly disarmed her by smiling warmly and saying, “Before we get to me, why don’t you tell me about yourself?”

DEPTH CHARGES

Among many young executives, there is confusion about the use of control in communication. There is a dark side to the very real achievements of some of the young urban professionals or “yuppies” who make up much of the up-and-coming executive corps today. The complaint I hear most often from older executives is that a number of the younger people—particularly the MBAs from the top business schools—are brilliant but smug. They are knowledgeable but are often glib and arrogant. “What’s missing when they communicate with you,” says one of my clients, “is the depth which experience brings to the facts. No one expects young people to be anointed with that special depth at such an early age—but many of them act as if they have it. They lecture you like you’re an idiot.”

Another client told me, “Some of the whiz kids come across as hard—but without density. Once you get past their analytical, numbers-crunching pyrotechnics and surface bravado, you often find they’re bright but shallow. If they don’t improve their people skills, they’re going to spend their careers alienating others—with disastrous results. The pity is, many of them never understand—or admit—that their insensitive style of communicating is the problem.”

This obviously isn’t true of all ambitious young people. The classic clash between young and old has gone on for centuries, but I am hearing a growing number of complaints like the ones just mentioned. If you know someone who fits the description, perhaps it’s time for a friendly chat to cool him down.

It can be a subtle process to communicate effectively when you’re a junior person in the same room with senior executives, but it can be done. If you do it in a way that doesn’t offend your superiors, you will eventually become a senior person. That’s the trick. A lot of it gets back to how people feel about you. They have to be comfortable with you. If you have any doubt about how comfortable you make others feel, be sure to take the self-assessment test at the end of this chapter.

CLIMATE CONTROL

Let me describe a situation where it’s the senior person who is in poor control of the atmosphere. Imagine that a boss walks into a conference room. He’s got a frown on his face. The staff sits at attention. The boss, visibly irritated, sits down and demands, “Give me the report from St. Louis.” The whole room is tense. This may be appropriate on occasion. But if he comes in and puts others at ease with a few casual comments or questions, he creates a more comfortable climate and people will respond more openly. That’s really “you are the message” in its simplest form. According to motivational speaker Zig Ziglar, winners are thermostats—they set the right temperature. Losers are thermometers—they go up and down according to conditions they think are outside of their influence.

UNSPOKEN GIVEAWAYS

With many people who don’t control the atmosphere, you notice it first nonverbally. They stand up to address a business meeting, and their shoulders hunch and their eyes shift. They look in one of three directions: at the floor, as if hoping an escape hatch will open and swallow them; at the nearest exit, as if wishing to get out fast; or at the ceiling, as if praying for divine guidance. What interferes with the comfortable use of their body is that they become self-conscious because the atmosphere has changed. Originally a part of the group, they’ve separated—physically—and they feel exposed and vulnerable. People who control the atmosphere recognize that moving away from the group actually puts you in a position of leadership. Others are following your moves.

SPACE AND TIME

Good communicators control space. It takes time to get control. If you stand up to speak to a group at a meeting, move to the front of the room confidently. Take the home base position, which is with feet balanced about six inches apart. If there is a lectern, rest your hands comfortably on each side of it. Look directly at your audience, and then take a second longer than you think you should to start. Smile as you begin. Remember, smiling is in the brain, not in the facial muscles. Gesture freely, spontaneously, and fully, without planning to “move your arms.” Gesture above the waist so your audience can see your physical expressiveness. Return to home base between gestures. Speak with feeling, from your heart as well as your head. Use a conversational style. Above all, you must believe what you are saying. That’s controlling the atmosphere.

Good speakers control their rate of speech because they’re comfortable with silence. Most of us are not. We feel pressure to say things as quickly as we can, or we have a rigid, slowed-down process of thinking things through so we don’t make a mistake. Those are two common extremes, and the result is someone who speaks too quickly or someone who speaks too slowly. In fact, free-form phrasing is preferable. Audiences don’t mind watching you think on your feet, as long as you signal that you’re in control of your time and space.

John Wayne had a great film presence, in part, because of the way he controlled the rate of his speech (time). The Duke described his trademark speech pattern this way: “I cut each sentence in half. I say the first half, stop, then say the second half.” Movie buffs will recall specific lines where that distinctive rhythm helped make Wayne’s delivery so memorable. The point, though, is for all of us to be aware that time (rate of speech, pausing, silence) can be used dynamically when we communicate.

PLAYING FOR TIME

Here’s a trick I sometimes use when I give a speech. Someone introduces me and I move to the lectern. There’s a definite time when I should begin speaking. I take one extra beat before beginning. Now the individuals in front of me become an audience because they all are focused on the same thing: When is this guy going to say something? Most speakers rush to the lectern, rustle around with their papers, and never take control of the time or space. They mumble under their breath, “Good evening, it’s nice to be here,” and they never look at their audience. Or they glance up and then right back down to read an introduction. They’re off to a weak and stumbling start.

SOCIAL SECURITY

People who control the atmosphere don’t change according to who’s in the room. They are aware of the interests of the audience. But if they’re at Windsor Castle, they don’t grovel before the queen, nor do they talk down to the gardener or shoeshine man. They act comfortably, pretty much the way they would in the living room, no matter who they’re with.

You can always tell if people are comfortable with their situation and with who they are by noting whether or not they try to adapt to each person in the room according to his or her social station. People who control the atmosphere don’t act threatened, frightened, or superior. They treat everybody with the same comfort level and the same goodwill.

Betty White, star of the “Golden Girls” television program, is one of the nicest people in show business. She’s a very private person with a great sense of humor. Essentially she is a very kind, intelligent woman. I first met her twenty-five years ago. She treated everyone—whether it was the prop boy or the executive producers—with the same openness and friendliness. There was never any distinction because somebody was powerful. When I first met her, I was the gofer for “The Mike Douglas Show.” Many stars walked in and gave me orders, like “Get me a cup of coffee.” They reserved their smiles for the more important people. But Betty White took as much time to talk to me as she did to anybody else. A few years later I became a producer, and often when we needed a guest on the show, I’d ask, “Is Betty White available?”

PULLBACK GESTURES

It’s also important to have an air of certainty about you in order to control the atmosphere. Use graceful gestures that are in sync with what you’re saying, and move in a gliding motion, rather than clumsily or self-consciously. FDR had great control of the atmosphere, even though he was confined to a wheelchair.

I believe the way you move has to do with confidence and an inner sense of yourself. For instance, watch people gesture in meetings. Some will make weak or halfhearted gestures, or what I call pullback gestures. They half raise their hand and then pull it back, or they’ll weakly wave a limp hand or finger to get attention. When I see someone move forward with a gesture and then pull it back quickly, that signals to me that this is not a confident person. It’s a subconscious signal to others, and it can kill your control of the atmosphere.

HAIL AND WELL MEANT

If you’re committed to what you’re saying, you don’t pull back halfway. It’s like hailing a taxi in New York City. I once heard a woman say that she could tell whether or not she wanted to have a second date with a man by the way he hailed a taxi in New York. This is one instance where there is no way to be too aggressive. She said she once went out with a man who, when he saw a cab, raised his hand weakly and quickly, then pulled it right back, saying, “Taxi?” in a tentative voice. After five or six cabs went by, she pushed him out of the way, moved into the middle of the street, shouted, whistled, flagged down a cab, opened the door, and threw the man in. But that was the last time she ever went out with him. In New York, there’s only one way to do it. You put your hand up forcefully, wave, and yell, “Taxi!”

We often see someone hesitantly raise a hand, then pull it back. We see people start to speak up and then trail off, or muffle their voices with their hands in front of their faces. That kills the command presence which is part of controlling the atmosphere. Nobody’s going to follow a tentative person. You can be calm, cautious, and deliberate, but not tentative. There’s a certainty to people who control the atmosphere. Whether they’re right or wrong, at least they’re certain; so people follow them. I wouldn’t say it’s essential to move like a boxer or a dancer, but it doesn’t hurt to have that kind of grace. In any case, when you do move, do it with certainty.

The same thing is true of the eyes, by the way. There are people who will start by saying something very strong and looking right at you, but three words into the sentence, they break eye contact and look at their shoes or out the window. In a tough negotiation, I watch that very carefully. If the other guy can keep looking right at me as he sells his point of view, I know he’s committed to it. He may be right or wrong, but I know he’s someone I have to deal with. He’s formidable. If somebody starts off very aggressively and then backs off with his eye contact or body language, I know I’ve got room to move, to be aggressive myself.

TEST OF STRENGTH

So the first part of eliminating uncertainty is to be aware of your feelings. Do I feel strongly about this? Why am I intimidated? Watch yourself on videotape and determine the following: Do I use pullback gestures? Do I lose eye contact in the middle of sentences although I want people to believe I’m committed to what I’m saying? If these are true, then you don’t have control of the atmosphere. Practice maintaining eye contact under stress. Be cool under fire. Practice making your gestures in one direction and holding them, then releasing them gently.

I can always tell the ones who treat their eye contact and smiles as a form of gamesmanship, because they’re always beaming at me bright-eyed with toothy, pasted-on grins. Somebody told them they should have this very penetrating eye contact, and that’s as wearing as talking with somebody who doesn’t look at you at all. At yuppie cocktail parties, I always catch these young, up-and-coming executives running around giving bone-crushing handshakes while grinning and locking eyes with me. The type of eye contact that’s best is gentle and comfortable, not one that feels forced.

CONTROL-OF-THE-ATMOSPHERE QUOTIENT

Let’s step back, as we did before, to take a personal inventory of what it takes to go beyond charisma. Score yourself on your ability to control the atmosphere, from one (“Not true of me at all”) up to five (“Describes me exactly”).

When I speak to others, I am always in control of:

✵ Time (rate of speech, pauses)

✵ Space (where and how I move)

✵ Eye contact (not just where I look and at whom, but the emotional messages my eyes send)

✵ My voice volume, pronunciation, changes in pitch, and tone)

✵ My state of mind (calm, happy, upbeat, self-confident)

✵ My attitude (unthreatened, open-minded, friendly)

✵ The flow of dialogue (I know when and how to insert my ideas and opinions)

✵ The absorb-project balance

✵ My feelings (I admit them to myself, understand them, and communicate accordingly)

There are nine questions and a possible forty-five-point perfect score. If you score over thirty-five on this test, you’re doing an excellent job of controlling the atmosphere. A score of twenty-nine to thirty-five, means you’re good. The range of twenty to twenty-eight is average. And below twenty, you are failing at this very important aspect of communications. In our next chapter, we’ll examine the quality that can turn a good communicator into a great one.