Valentine’s Day challenge – bring back the art of charm

As we approach Valentine’s Day, Sue Parker considers the art of genuine charm. What could marketers and business leaders achieve when approaching life, and business, with a generous and curious spirit?

Given the marketing world takes a whopping booty from Valentine’s Day sales and promotions it may seem ironic writing about a charm challenge here in Marketing.  But, unlike the impending Hallmark card influx, the precepts of affection are for every day.

Alanis Morissette sang, “It’s like rain on your wedding day, It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid, isn’t it ironic don’t you think.” The timing of the topic is perfect with the focus on ‘feel good’ moments which produce a host of happy hormones.

And it’s a fair call to say we all hanker for more joy and feel good moments in our professional lives. But those happy hormones (serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins) can be in short supply in our daily work as we grind the wheels of survival, success, failure, change, and competition and business relationships.

The neuroscience and benefits of happy chemicals are well documented. And whilst I’m no scientist, I’m confident that bringing back the art of genuine charm will have a significant impact on professional lives, creativity, mental and physical wellbeing.

Charming and charismatic contexts

Being charismatic and charming is not always mutually exclusive. Charismatic people and leaders are mostly extremely confident, influential and engage broadly with big impact. Whereas being charming is more a ‘person to person’ focus with the essence of a desire to give.

And in that context, the powerful charismatic stage persona, may not always give a flying red rose in the hallway talking to the caretaker. Genuinely charming people don’t delineate who is worthy of their attention. They treat all with the same level of interest, irrelevant of status or usefulness to them.

The impact of charm is wedded into how people feel about themselves and you after interacting. Whether that be in person, via zoom, email or phone, the impact will be either feeling valued and energised or devalued and weakened.

The case for charm

The ethos of an enduring romantic relationship is knowing you are the most important person in the world to your partner. You feel loved, liked, wanted, appreciated, admired and respected.

Clients, colleagues, staff, networks and suppliers seek that also. Ok, we can leave off the love part and swap the most important person bit to giving someone your full attention.

Author of the evergreen How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie wrote: You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

His book was first printed in 1936 but the tenets are even more important today than when first printed alongside manual typewriters, dial back phones and Bing Crosby’s ‘Silent Night’.

Now before anyone throws chocolate boxes or stomps on fluffy toys, let me clearly state what charm is and isn’t.

I’m absolutely not talking about any gendered, surreptitious seductive manoeuvres, sleazy innuendos or manipulative behaviours. Nor am I referring to disingenuous words, sycophantic actions, effusive self-serving compliments or snake oil sales flattery.

Charm when used for good intent is the quality of politeness, delighting, attracting, fascinating and captivating others.   So now that’s cleared up, let’s keep going with a glass of champagne.

What and how of charm

The first five to ten minutes of any interaction sets the scene of a relationship. Even the first few lines of an email, SMS or social media message will frame the communications. Building rapport, being enthusiastic and curious should be a no brainer. But it doesn’t quite work out that way each time. Like a little-used muscle, charm needs daily exercise to strengthen it.

Charm is often best served with a dash or two of witty banter. And banter of itself is a playful communication skill sorely missing. Banter can sweep away awkward energy and the hustle of business. I fear we have gone too far right on the PC scale with a fear of being misconstrued. Lines can be crossed so motivation and mindfulness matter.

Enthusiasm

Smile and smile again – inside and outside. Greet people with verbal and body language eagerness. Enthusiasm is irresistible and creates a great vibe of interest. Don’t forget your smile and body language on Zoom and mobile.

Be present and attentive

Put mobiles and other devices away. Keep your gaze on the other person not flicking around the room like a lost puppy. On Zoom be focused with good eye contact. Emergency needs the exceptions of course. 

Research

Prior to any communication (and especially the first one) research the person and business.  The amount of people who haven’t bothered to look at a website, LinkedIn or Google is startling. Showing you cared enough by taking ten minutes to learn about someone is essential.

The gold nuggets you find in that research may be invaluable. It’s magic to discover a shared value, personal issue or interest to develop a greater sense of connection.

‘People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.’

Genuine compliment

Start conversations with a positive about the person. A genuine compliment moves mountains and cements the law of psychological reciprocity. Extroverts tend to compliment with higher octane levels whereas introverts are more understated which is totally fine. Don’t be silent.

Curious questions

Ask questions that encourage and open up conversations verbally and in writing. Everyone loves to talk about themselves with thought provoking interesting questions. Go beyond the veneer and go deeper when possible. Find out and remember little important things about life outside of work.

Gratitude and appreciation

This is a big one that seems to be stored up for all those other Hallmark occasions such as Christmas, Easter and Bah Mitzvahs. Unexpected efforts and thoughtfulness that surprise staff, suppliers and colleagues are so memorable.

Manners

Without wanting to sound like a tartan skirt, twin-set wearing principal of a finishing school, good manners never go out of style. But they have often been forgotten.

It only takes a few extra minutes to type a thank you, respond to an invitation, and be polite. And for a real delight, what about snail mail?

Social media, LinkedIn and emails  

Make an effort to make everyone feel valued. Ignoring emails and messages is never acceptable unless spam or from Nigerian princes. Personalise all connection and outreach requests with relevance on LinkedIn particularly. Answer messages with more than a thumbs up (grrr there I said it), read profiles and be courteous. Be interesting and interested on socials and LinkedIn.

Banter and laughter

Laughter and playful banter is a wondrous elixir that soothes, replenishes and energises. It is charm 101 when you can put a smile on another person face and brighten their day. Best hit of dopamine ever. Ok there are some other elixirs but they are for another time.

Pick up the phone

Use that mobile for more than texting.  A charming voice and tone inflection is a great way to build trust and demonstrate real interest. Don’t always hide behind a computer and mobile keypad.

The charm challenge

Genuine charm is a great way to build trust, respect and improve everyone’s wellbeing but you cannot fake it. It’s also good business sense as work satisfaction, business engagement and reputations prosper.

Will you join me in the challenge to bring back the art of charm in 2021?

Sue Parker is the founder of DARE Group Australia, a unique Career Communications, LinkedIn and Personal Branding consultancy.  

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash.