Developing Social Charisma as a Blind/ Low Vision Employee

Two young people sitting at a table talking.

Let’s talk social charisma (connecting to others with empathy, emotion, and diplomacy), but before doing so, I must declare once again: It’s okay to be a quiet person! Introverts, extroverts, or those toeing the line between the two (ambiverts) can have excellent social skills. Whether you draw your energy from time spent alone or with others, and whether you are naturally reserved or more talkative, you can cultivate the social skills we’ll call “charisma”. And because some of the nuances of charisma are visual in nature, I think it’s important to clearly define and describe them.  

What is Social/Personal Charisma? 

According to Psychology Today’s Charisma: What Is It? Do You Have It?, “Personal charisma is a constellation of complex and sophisticated social and emotional skills. They allow charismatic individuals to affect and influence others at a deep emotional level, to communicate effectively with them, and to make strong interpersonal connections.”  

The article examines the elements making up charisma:  

  • Emotional expressiveness—the ability to convey authentic feelings  
  • Emotional sensitivity—the ability to detect others’ emotions and relate to them 
  • Emotional control—the ability to restrain emotions and display emotions purposefully 
  • Social expressiveness—the ability to communicate effectively with words and body language 
  • Social sensitivity—the ability to discern tactful verbal and nonverbal communication 
  • Social control—the ability to compose oneself with dignity and confidence 

Exhibiting the abilities in balance is the goal. Displaying social expressiveness without restraint or sensitivity can leave others frustrated—for example, a coworker who engages with interest and zeal, but won’t stop talking. On the other hand, having restraint without the ability to relate to others or share with them can come across as callous or impersonal. 

Developing Social Charisma 

According to Psychology Today’s article, 4 Ways to Boost Your Charisma: There are six core elements, and you can develop everyone., the following can help to develop the six elements of social charisma:  

  • Practice interpreting and communicating emotions. It’s impossible to accurately convey your emotions or interpret others’ emotions if you aren’t proficient in identifying feelings. Take time to recognize your emotions in different situations. It can be beneficial to ask for constructive criticism on your verbal and nonverbal communication and emotional expression. Learn where you excel and where you have room for improvement. Find out, too, how others express their emotions by listening to and interpreting tone of voice, and asking a sighted friend or family member to demonstrate how others express emotions nonverbally. You may want to watch movies and visit public spaces with a sighted friend who can describe the nuances of body language in different contexts and work environments. 
  • Practice social skills. Attend social functions and meet others in order to rehearse verbal and nonverbal communication. When talking with others, practice active listening and the elements of a conversation (including an appropriate greeting, back-and-forth dialogue, and the conclusion). Remember to address misconceptions and low expectations by being comfortable with yourself and being confident in your skills. 
  •  Practice social control. “Four Ways to Boost Your Social Charisma” states, “Our research has shown that a big part of what makes people charismatic is that they have social poise and presence, what we call “savoir-faire.” Consider how you come across when you meet others or converse with them—asking for constructive criticism from others will be key. You’ll want to know appropriate topics and ones to avoid; how to make a good first impression; how to present yourself confidently; how to control your emotions; and how to make others feel important and interesting by remaining an engaged listener and asking follow-up questions.  

The purpose of practicing the aforementioned skills and improving your social charisma is to genuinely connect with others. To do so, both parties will need to authentically care about each other’s opinions, feelings, and experiences, though you are only responsible for how you listen and share. If, however, the individual you are conversing with is skilled in showing you the same concern, a meaningful relationship can ensue!