by Max Brantley
Is there any wonder why the LA Times chose a photo of a certain former Arkansas governor to illustrate a story about researchers trying to pin down what constitutes charisma -- why some have it and some don't.
Charisma, by its nature, is elusive and difficult to study, but most experts agree that it involves a combination of enthusiasm, extroversion and good listening skills.
More specifically, they suggest that charismatic individuals have more variance in the pitch of their speech — that is, their speech pattern goes up and down — they are more likely to smile and initiate physical contact and, consciously or unconsciously, they tend to mimic the body language of their listener.
But there's something else too. Charismatic people appear to tune in to other people to the exclusion of all else, leaving the recipients of all this glorious attention believing that there has been an emotional connection. As a result of the contact, the recipients feel special and consequently good about themselves.
In short, recipients get a quick snort of happy dust. A mood boost.
Few people are completely immune.
Remember Newt Gingrich and the trance-like hold Bill Clinton seemed to have on the Republican leader? The article says, by the way, that charisma seems to be becoming more important in political decisions, as lines blur on policy differences. Which brings us right back to Decision 2006. In Arkansas, who has charisma in the statewide races and who does not?
Truth is, Jim Holt, in his own special way, might be the charisma leader. (Though some people are creeped out when he does that up-close-and-personal-look-deep-in-your-eye thing.)