Can you handle the dark side of charisma?
Recently I’ve gotten a few emails that have really struck me. Why? Because they’re from readers and former clients telling me that now they’re ‘irresistible’, they’ve noticed a few not-so-fun things happening in their lives.
Like what? You may ask. Well, this is exactly why I talk so much about being careful about HOW you use charisma. It’s like when Midas wished to turn everything into gold. He got fucked in the end.
The main problems people are having now that they’ve tapped into this ‘superpower’ is 2-fold:
- People projecting all of their fears and insecurities onto you and therefore treating you poorly, seemingly without reason
- People reacting strange to you as a result of feeling envious
So yes — it’s true. There is such thing as too much of a good thing. But here’s where it gets tricky. How do you navigate this? Do you go back to your former self where you’re ‘hiding your light’ and not wanting to upset others? Notice the vicious cycle one could put themselves through. But this is the next step up from having a solid foundation of charisma — managing it.
Here’s what I told a former client of mine who talked about a few problems at work she had that resulted in envy from someone in leadership and a few strange reactions from her co-workers:
1 – Envy Prevention Plans. It’s great you’re already aware of what’s going on and sensing the dynamics of the situation. I would first try to see this from the leader’s perspective — even though his perspective may not be accurate. Maybe he doesn’t feel like he can express himself as well as you, maybe his ego is bruised, maybe he feels prideful. One thing you can do is to let him know what you’ve learned from him or ask for his advice on something, or even share a small vulnerability of yours. This doesn’t mean hiding your light, than it does to be strategic about the group dynamics you’re in.
(As a sidenote, this is something Olivia Fox talks about in her book The Charisma Myth which I highly recommend. Understanding the dark side of anything is important to give you a 360 lay of the land)
2 – Think of your ‘irresistibility’ as a switch. Of course, I’ve also struggled with these feelings of always being ‘on’ and ‘performing’. The most ‘irresistible’ thing you can do is give yourself permission to turn off, even when you’re around people. It is liberating, but also gives you a range instead of feeling like you need to be one personality. You can be life of the party Lisa, introspective Lisa, sexy Lisa, even boring Lisa! I have a boring Fel inside of me and I let her out every once in a while to relieve some pressure.
3 – Challenge people. If you ever get the sense that someone is putting you up on a pedestal or is worshipping an ideal of you, you can challenge their assumptions by turning off your switch, revealing an imperfection/vulnerability of yours to make you human, or to openly admit you don’t know something and ask them what they think instead. This deflects pressure on your end, and also makes you more human in their eyes.
Now, all of this sounds well and good. And I know these strategies work, because I’ve used them. But I believe it warrants another discussion about an inconvenient truth we all struggle with.
Here’s what I mean:
I recently got back from an amazing vacation in Maui. And something they do is called ‘Practice Aloha’. And Aloha Culture (from what I understand) means to approach everyone with love. Not everyone has to be our friend, but we love them.
And I really love this sentiment. In fact, it’s one of the core philosophies I teach when I talk about approaching people. To do it from a place of playfulness, and curiosity. To discover someone and see if you like them.
But it’s true that not everyone is worthy of your time or investment. It is true that some people have bad intentions, big ego, and a lot of pride. So there’s this conflict of: how the hell do I ‘practice aloha’ when I know some people can’t be trusted?
I’ve thought a lot about this. And truthfully, I don’t believe there is an ‘either/or’ answer. You have to be able to hold both of these concepts within you because both are true, both are worthy of being aware of, and both help you navigate any social or relationship challenge skillfully.
In fact, here’s what I told a reader who wrote in about this exact question about what to do with people are who are difficult, mean, and hell, a bit kooky if we’re being honest:
Hey Sandy — thanks so much for writing, especially because you bring up one of the most controversial topics regarding social skills and relationships.
My view on this multi-dimensional, and as follows:
1) You’re absolutely right. There are people out there who are certainly not worth your time and energy and who I believe you shouldn’t invest time in.
1A) This changes when you’re in circumstances where you have to deal with them. These people could be family, friends of friends, people at work, etc.
In terms of dealing with them, it isn’t easy. It requires finesse, strategy, and game playing, as much as an inconvenient truth as that sounds. I’ve dealt with this mostly in family and it can be emotionally exhausting. However, there is no better feeling than being in control vs. being at the whims of others issues, emotions, etc.
Best strategies I know of:
-If you can’t remove yourself from these people, it’s best to deeply understand how they work. What makes them tick? Why are they the way they are? The more you can objectively remove yourself from taking their behavior personally, the more in control you can be
-Given your understanding of how they work, what’s the best way to deal with them? This varies, of course, but the idea is to use what drives them to make your life easier and less stressful when they’re around.
-By nature this is difficult because it requires a lot of work up front –time most people aren’t willing to invest. However, it is worth it in the long-term in happiness and peace of mind. It also helps to remember that it really is just a game, and that you’re dealing with ‘egos’ vs. someone who is self-aware of their effect on people.
As a sidenote, a by-product can sometimes be a blossoming relationship. Compassion and understanding can transform people, as the reason why people do a lot of screwed up things is the result of a desire to be loved.
So, I could get all 48 Laws of Power on you and go into the intricacies of this ‘game playing’ I mentioned and the strategy required to handle certain people, but I’d rather ask YOU a question that I can answer in my next email:
What’s a situation you’re currently in that has to do with dealing with the ‘dark side’ of personal relationships? Someone difficult at work, a family member, an in-law, a friend. Reply back to this email and tell me your story — I’d love to help in my next post.