Negative Charisma

A friend of mine was once wondering what stats we would have if we were D and D characters.  We supposed we might have strengths of 12 or so and less than impressive dexterity.  When it came to charisma… My friend stopped and thought for a moment.  “You probably have negative charisma.” He concluded.  I definitely agreed with him.  Never in my life had I stood out and taken over a group of any kind.  Furthermore, I had a special talent for getting people to dislike me without any effort at all.  I’d look back and wonder what I’d done to piss them off.  Negative charisma seemed the best explanation.

Over time, I became better versed in social conventions but the idea of an opposite to the classic charismatic personality stuck with me.  I eventually started thinking of it as a virtue.  Something different than merely being disagreeable, something more than being the  sunny, charming, crowd pleaser that everyone seems to worship.

‘Beware the charismat’ I sometimes told myself.  It was a warning against the golden boy or girl of the hour who walks into the room and mesmerizes everyone.  A charismat is perfect in their mannerisms and dazzling in their conduct.  They are too good to be true, almost certainly disingenuous.  They lack the most important virtue: a flaw.  The charismat is the polished contrived sort of leader that thrives off of mass media in Western nations.

For a Subtle person, the most charismatic and inspirational people are those who act strange and awkward by the standards of Western society, who speak quietly rather than ostentatiously, who know how to share the stage rather than dominate, who know how to collaborate rather than compete.

A truly inspirational person does not conceal all their flaws and does not reveal all their strengths.  The inspirational person is calm, matter of fact,  never boastful, never sanctimonious, never patronizing.

To the Subtle  person, eccentricities are one of the most endearing elements of the human character and figure strongly into the personality of someone inspirational.

Negative Charisma is about substance over form.  A true introvert finds a speaker with a weak voice or a stammer to be inspirational if there is solid expertise, knowledge, and insight behind their words.  It is not about the means of delivery but the content delivered.

One who has negative charisma strives to be underestimated in order to select against those who understand only what is aggressively, outwardly flaunted.  It seemed to me that the fulfillment of one with negative charisma might come in a moment of vindication:  When the Golden person overextends, underestimates and is confronted by strength where they expected only weakness and submission as usual.  In such a moment, a charismat would be exposed with imperfections before their adoring crowd.  The first instance of resistance and refutation to the seemingly unstoppable force of their personality would break their power.   One with negative charisma would prevail as the Golden person was cast down by former worshipers.

Those with Negative Charisma never put themselves on a pedestal.  They never set out to be the strongest, best liked, most charming person.    They have no need to maintain a public image.  Their object is never to move all the crowd but to speak to the most thoughtful persons within  it.  The moment of vindication arrives when one who sits powerfully but precariously on the shoulders of a multitude throws their strength against one who is alone but immovable.

Zygmunt blogs at Kingdom of Introversion (and elsewhere).

Negative Charisma appears here by permission.

[image via Flickr/Creative Commons]

on 11/14/11 in featured, Society | No Comments | Read More

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