Friday, 11 April 2014

Charisma - You Got It Or You Don't

Che Guevera


Noun. Plural charismata. Mid-17th century.
[ecclesiastical Latin from Greek kharisma, -mat-, from kharis favour, grace.]

1 CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY. A divinely conferred power or talent. M17

2 A capacity to inspire devotion or enthusiasm; aura. M20

Charisma is like sex appeal, wit, or the ability to lick the tip of your nose - you either have it or you don't, and if you want it, forget it. Certainly, there are plenty of books and articles available that tell you that you can develop charisma; the Wikihow post How To Be Charismatic does just that, distilling it down into five easy steps so that you can be the next Che Guevara, Martin Luther King or Jim Jones. But while I don't wish to cast aspersions on the depth of research or penetrating sociological insights behind that article, I can't help but think that the authors don't really get charisma. Rather than being a skill that one can develop, true charisma is something nebulous, indefinable and transcendent. In that sense, it's rather close to the original meaning, in that it's a divinely conferred talent, one that you're either have or you don't. But if you don't agree with me, do feel free to prove me wrong - complete the Wikihow checklist, hone your charisma, and have a go at founding a religion. Lexicolatry eagerly await your results.

Do please discuss all manner of charismata in the box below.
(it's such a cool plural, I just had to squeeze it in somehow)


  1. Greek plurals are the coolest, aren't they? :)

    1. Undeniably the coolest, Evi. It's impossible to drop a Greek plural into a conversation without sounding *really* clever : o )

  2. I agree Ed - It's not something that can be learned. You've either got it or you don't!
    I'm in the don't camp, but I do admire those who do have it.

    And that is a neat plural!

    1. Meeting a truly charismatic person is a rare experience, but I can think of a few times in my life when I have. Some people just have an innate ability to inspire awe.

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