kids/teens learning social skills and charismaParents often ask about how to help their children improve social skills.

Here are some ideas you can share with your child if he or she motivated to learn some new ways of thinking about connecting with others.

Charisma is a way of being that draws other people to you and makes them want to be around you. Think about the charismatic people in your life. mentors, friends, or public figures like athletes, actors, and politicians. People think that charisma is something you are born with or without, but this isn’t entirely true. While charisma comes more naturally to some people, it is a set of skills that can be practiced and learned. Here are some of the most important skills to practice yourself or help your child practice to become more charismatic.

kids cooperateAttention

People like being around other people that make them feel interesting, funny, and intelligent. Giving someone your undivided attention shows them that you find them likable and are interested in what they are saying. You can demonstrate attention by using active listening skills like turning your body toward to speaker, nodding, making verbal affirmations (“Yes” or “I see what you mean,” or just “Uh huh’), and maintaining eye contact. Eye contact can be tricky to master. Too much eye contact can feel creepy and aggressive, while too little comes off as uninterested. I recommend maintaining eye contact just long enough to allow you to note the eye color of your conversation partner. Then you can look away before returning to offer more eye contact.

Confidence

Remember that people are attracted to those that make them feel interesting The balancing act is to offer enough to the conversation to share your knowledge and experience, but listen with equal intensity so that your conversation partner has the same opportunity. It helps if you can steer the conversation toward an area you feel comfortable and confident enough to offer information, but restrain yourself from sounding like a know-it-all. Don’t be afraid to use humor. Effective humor makes everyone feel good and isn’t at the expense of anyone. Jokes about things that are core to people’s values or out of their control are off limits. This usually includes religion, politics, looks, abilities, family, and ethnicity.

Conversation

When attempting to open a conversation toward an area within your comfort zone, think of it as creating a larger boat rather than steering the boat you are in. Instead of shifting topics, offer stories that add to the conversation. Again, avoid sounding like a “know-it-all”. If you catch yourself using words like “actually” and “obviously” pump the brakes and try again. Phrases like these make it sound like anyone who disagrees with your statement is foolish. People don’t like to feel foolish! If you hear yourself correcting someone this is another warning of “know-it-all-ism.” Instead of correcting, ask clarifying questions and speak from your own experience. Remember to smile! Smiling really is contagious and shows that you are friendly and at ease. The “duchenne smile” is an authentic, whole face smile in both the mouth and eyes.

Vulnerability

When you are open and generous it makes people feel safe and comfortable. Sharing your own experiences helps people feel closer to you and opens them up to sharing their own life experiences. It’s okay to share mistakes that you’ve made, especially if you’ve learned a valuable lesson from them. Self deprecating humor is a way of gently acknowledging your own mistakes or areas of weakness, but don’t be too hard on yourself.

The most effective way to get stronger in these areas is not to “practice” out of context, but instead to become aware of them as you interact with people throughout your day. Authenticity is the key, so it won’t do you any good to work out your conversation skills like you would a muscle in a gym. Becoming overly self conscious takes away from your ability to give your attention to the person you are speaking to. It all comes back to presence, being fully in the moment where you are and who you are with.

If you decide to share some of these ideas with your child, remember to make sure they are interested in learning about how to attract more people to them. Be careful to notice if this is your agenda or your child’s desire! And you may want to:

  • Share only one idea at a time.
  • Ask your child about ways he may already be using these skills.
  • Think together about situations in which she may want to apply these skills.
  • Invite your child to notice any outcomes from his new efforts.
  • Ask your child if she wants to check in from time to time about progress she is making and any challenges she is facing..
  • If you notice your child applying new skills, offer some effective praise describing specifically what you noticed.
  • Talk with your child about ways that you are planning to use these skills or already do so yourself.

Pay careful attention to your child’s responses at your efforts to teach. Notice if they are discouraged or encouraged to have this kind of support and respond accordingly. Let us know how your focus on charisma affects your life or that of your child.

Our guest blogger, Aaron Weintraub, is an author and director of Kids Cooperate in Tolland, Connecticut. He has worked with children and families with special needs for more than ten years. His philosophy of practice is based on respect for individuals and a deep belief that every child can thrive if shown respect, affection, and trust in their innate abilities. His biggest and most important job remains helping to raise his three children.