How Quick Wit Makes You Charismatic
We love people with charm.
They can make a room of people laugh by just being themselves. They can sweep people off their feet within 5 minutes of talking to them. They can even move people to take action for a good cause.
The truth is, we’ve all fantasized about being the type of person that’s powerfully charismatic. Who can put others at ease and to whom people put their trust in. We want to be spell-binding.
How do they do it? And how can we be more charismatic?
It’ll take more than a charming smile. And it might just depend on how fast you think on your feet.
Speed of Thought
A study published in Psychological Science recently found that one of the keys to being charming is quick wit.
Scientists were intrigued by what caused people to exhibit an air of charisma. To discover the source they took a unique look at a person’s mental speed.
William von Hippel is a psychological scientist from Australia that was involved in the research. He explains:
“Our findings show that social intelligence is more than just knowing the right thing to do. Social intelligence also requires an ability to execute, and the quickness of our mind is an important component of that ability.”
In trying to get at the basis of what makes people charismatic, William and his colleagues conducted a few tests.
To start, the participants completed initial measures of personality and intelligence. Also, they gathered the impressions of their friends to gauge how charismatic they were perceived to be.
Subjects were then put through two more tests. The first required them to run through a series of general knowledge questions. A second set had the participants visually locate a dot or identify a pattern. They were instructed to do these activities as quickly as possible.
When the data was analyzed the scientists found that those who had demonstrated mental speed were seen as more charismatic by their peers.
Role of Intelligence
So are more intelligent people more charismatic?
Not necessarily. Even the scientists were a bit surprised how general intelligence took a backseat to quick thought. William elaborates:
“Although we expected mental speed to predict charisma, we thought that it would be less important than IQ. Instead, we found that how smart people were was less important than how quick they were.”
So having a breadth of knowledge doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t play a central role in how charming people may find you.
You may also think that a person’s personality may affect their charisma. However, the researchers found that general personality didn’t play a role in their results.
William sums it up:
“So knowing the right answer to a tough question appears to be less important than being able to consider a large number of social responses in a brief window of time.”
Quick reactions to awkward or embarrassing situations may help turn negative perceptions into positive ones. On the spot humor can also put people at ease.
William and his team expected to find that a quick response would also carry over to other social skills. However, they found no such connection to other social skills like empathy or conflict resolution.
So while mental speed may play a critical role in charisma, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be a social phenomenon. Overall social intelligence is a more complex beast.
When it comes to charming the pants off a crowd or a sexual interest, you’ll need to be quick on your feet.
But it’s best to have some other social skills to let others you have more to offer than just a quick laugh.