It's my life! / Psychology

Falling into the clutches of sweet-talking charmers

I’ve always thought I was a genius in reading people.

The popular and the geeks, the life-of-the-party and the wallflower, the smart and the not-so-smart ones. I thought I could classify people just with my first impressions of them.

And, when I read Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Blink’ and his split-second character-reading theory, my first thought was, “Hey, that’s true. I form my judgements on people pretty quickly and they are always right.”

Gosh, I was so naïve.

There have been several occasions in the past three months that made me doubt myself. But, it took me this long to finally come face-to-face with the fact that I’m a superficial creature when judging people.

I had the opportunity today to be part of an interview session. This time, not as the participant, but one of the interviewers. We had a mixed bunch of personalities in this session. A sprinkle of extroverts who were competing for our attention, and a dash of individuals on the other side of the spectrum, who were slightly more reticent.

I was naturally impressed by the extroverts. They had the twinkle in their eyes. They were vibrant. They were sprouting out unimaginable creative ideas. I liked them.

Little did I know that just because they were confident of whatever they were saying did not mean that whatever they were saying was correct!

Just because they oozed out that wonderful charisma; just because they used creative jargons in their manner of speech; just because their body language and facial expressions were set for persuasion; did not mean that their arguments were logical, rational, or relevant in the first place.

Oh, how shallow I must have been to have fallen into the inconspicuous clutches of charisma.

To quote my fellow interviewer about charmers, “I likened them to NATO (The North Atlantic Treaty Organization). All talk but no action.” I am not saying that all charmers are all-talk-no-action people. But, my point is not all charmers are as intelligent or as wise as they portray themselves to be.

So, the lessons I learned today were:

  • Words can make conversations beautiful or ugly. To decode the underlying message, brush away all unnecessary jargons and fancy laces. Simplify and discover the root of the conversation. Only then, we can decide whether the argument makes sense or not.
  • There are two types of leaders:
    – The first leader a.k.a. the natural-born leader. Charming, confident and usually outspoken individuals. However, if uncontrolled, this combination of charm and confidence could easily overwhelm others, thus oppressing opinions of others.
    – The second leader a.k.a. the underdogs. Those who are not as outspoken as the first leaders, but when given the chance and the situation, they will rise to the occasion.
  • Similarly, in entrepreneurship, there are two types of entrepreneurs as well:
    – The outspoken entrepreneur whose skill sets makes him an accomplished master in sales and marketing.
    – The second type is the ‘innovator’. The innovator may lack the charisma and persuasion skills, but his brilliant ideas will propel the company and team forward.

I feel a little proud of myself today for finally acknowledging this weakness of mine. Now, I can start being a little more critical in analysing people’s characters and to not judge too hastily.

Well, it has been another brilliant lesson-filled day. Hoorah!


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