Charm is the power of delighting, attracting and fascinating others, and having the ability to influence benignly; so why wouldn’t you?
Perhaps it’s just me, but I am becoming increasingly aware of the levels of aggression we’re encountering these days, as opposed to the 1800’s when I was a child. I could, and often do, rapture exhaustively about gratuitous violence in film and TV – and don’t get me started on the inconsequential violence of cartoons. Then there’s the prevalence of road rage, fuelled by a Molotov cocktail of impatience, bad manners and delusions of entitlement.
In the interests of full disclosure, I have succumbed to occasional bouts of road rage when my inner Mama Bear is invoked, when I’m cut up by a bodily orifice (a Proctologist would examine), with my children in the car. So my angel wings are still a way off, with all hopes of a halo lost during one wild weekend in Warminster-on-Sea; but I digress.
Life is so much faster, instant and on demand these days, that the qualities of patience and humanness are withering before our eyes, which subsequently provides a breeding ground for combative reactions. We don’t even take the time to think about how to respond to stimuli nowadays, we just dispense our knee-jerk reflexes automatically; which is all-too-often followed by impulse remorse. So why not slow down and think things through?
It pays to engage with charm because life becomes infinitely more pleasant, harmonious and stress-free. By recognising the reactive freneticism of others, it is easier to rise above their provocative actions and maintain harmony in our own lives. Charm is also devilishly effective in neutralising the anger and impatience others may cast in our direction: your anger plus their anger equals more anger, and what is this escalation ever going to achieve? Better to neutralise with charm: your charm subtracts their anger equals less anger; in theory at least. Hate has never dispelled hate; only love dispels hate.
As a child I was raised on Aesop’s Fables, and the lessons still influence me to this day. There are many great stories, but the one with relevance here is The Wind and the Sun…
The Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveller walking along the road, and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveller to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger. You begin.”
The Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveller. However, the harder the Wind blew, the more closely the traveller wrapped his cloak around himself, until at last, the Wind gave up in despair.
The Sun then came out and shone in all its glory upon the traveller, who soon became too hot and had to remove his cloak to continue upon his journey.
The moral of Aesop’s Fable is simply that charm and warmth is more effective than power and severity. People have an inherent need to feel valued and valuable, so the secret of charm is to make others feel special, important and cared for. When you make people feel genuinely special, important and cared for, they will be inclined to like you, trust you, and want to engage with you further. This is an essential ingredient when establishing and maintaining a long-standing rapport.
Conversely, if people leave you feeling drained, agitated and distrustful, they are likely to go to extraordinary lengths to reduce their exposure to you. You may have – or think you have – more knowledge, experience, money, contacts etc, but there is nothing to be gained from alienating people with an inflated, self-aggrandising, arrogant façade. You can still impart what you wish, but better to impart with charm and make the other person feel good, than to impart arrogantly to only make yourself feel good. If the other person has something you need or want, give them something they need or want; even if it is just a little dose of genuine, nurturing, ego-stroking charm. You attract more bees with honey than with vinegar after all.
One final thought. You may have noticed I haven’t used the term “charm offensive” in this article? This is because, in my opinion, to launch a charm offensive is synonymous with an “active attack” – something that is done to someone else. I am proposing we all calm down, slow down and engage each other with more warmth and charm, so that we may all feel special, valued and cared for.