A few years ago I had to take a personality test for work. StrengthsFinder‘s shtick is that it focuses on areas identified by the test-makers in which you excel and not areas in which you could improve. My top five strengths (including “Analytical”, described with a sentence that begins, “You do not necessarily want to destroy other people’s ideas…”) were left-brained, logical and cold. They basically indicated that I’m Mr. Spock.
Some versions of StrengthsFinder will also tell you the characteristics in which you are less strong. Normally, I would call those “weaknesses”, but the test’s feel-good doublespeak doesn’t allow it. The area in which I am
weakest most not-strong is WOO. WOO stands for Winning Others Over and not the act of wooing someone, even though one could argue that to woo is to Win anOther Over. (There I go, being all analytical and destroying other people’s ideas.) WOOers attend parties full of strangers and chat up a storm. They make friends in an elevator. Captain Kirk is an uppercase WOOer.
It was hard to argue with the results. The only problem is that I don’t want to be Mr. Spock. I want to be Captain Kirk.
For some reason, I’ve convinced myself that I’m very charming, despite having no evidence to support this theory. In my head, I’m the kind of person who wears a beautiful dress to host enormous dinner parties for interesting people. I own five chairs and zero beautiful dresses. I do not know how to cook or have any interest at all in actually hosting parties like that, but some crazy part of me sincerely believes I can do it.
My dumb brain is positive that there is a beautiful lake of charisma deep inside me but it’s frozen over by a crust of socially awkward ice. There is absolutely no reason for me to think this. I have opportunities to be charming all the time, and I never come through.
I Should Have Turned on the Charm…
…interviewing for my job.
Instead, I pretended a cold hadn’t totally robbed me of my voice, tried to talk through it, refused water when it was offered, and left the room mortified and sweaty. I came painfully close to not getting the job.
…at any party I’ve ever attended.
Instead, I usually sit in a corner, petting the nearest dog or cat. If there are no pets available, I feign a deep interest in the selection of dips.
…during the networking portions of work conferences.
Instead, when one startup’s CEO approached and said some wildly inaccurate things about the geography of my home state, I just nodded my head vigorously until he left me alone.
…meeting my boyfriend’s parents.
Instead, I panicked while trying to come up with conversation topics at dinner. I solved that problem by getting most of a corncob stuck in my teeth. TIP: Discreetly trying to dislodge the corn kernels in your teeth by taking a bite of hamburger only results in more varieties of food stuck in there.
After every one of these moments, I’ve thought, “I could have been more engaging, of course. I am a charmer, after all.” But I’ve been hacking away at that socially inept ice for almost 24 years and the only thing under it is more ice. I’m starting to suspect I’m not a lake full of charm at all. I’m probably more like Antarctica, in that if I ever get through the ice, the only thing I’ll find is dirt. (That was a weird metaphor. In my defense, I’m still very cold.)
I wish I was charming enough to set my fellow introverts at ease at parties, but I mostly want more charisma for entirely selfish reasons. The anxiety and endless shame cycles that come with being awkward are exhausting. Charismatic people have an amazing social lubricant (ew) the more inept among us would kill for and they don’t even know it. If I was charming, I could stop worrying about not being charming. I can’t even imagine how much smoother I would be if I was smooth.
So I’m working on it. I’m trying to be more present in conversations. I’m attempting to ask questions about people’s interests without coming off like a Spanish Inquisitor. I’m providing more information about myself to complete strangers, and I’m learning how to use touch in a not-creepy, totally normal way during conversation, even though it freaks me out. After all, a lot of people throughout history have exhibited great charm and nothing bad happened to them.
Famous Charismatic Figures
– Teddy Roosevelt
– Audrey Hepburn
– Ferris Bueller
– James Bond
– John F. Kennedy
– Oscar Wilde
– Charles Manson
– Ted Bundy
Boy. That list really took a turn. Turns out there might be such a thing as too charismatic.
Maybe I’ll just stick with petting dogs in the corner for now.