The fundamental rule of the Age of Celebrity: It doesn't matter what you are; it only matters what people think you are.
-- LANCE MORROW
Now that you know the basics of charming people, of affecting them at a deep emotional level, let's look at the reasons why charm works so that you can better practice the techniques in this resource to become even better at getting your own sweet way. In the theater, there are two core approaches to acting: the American approach, which is referred to as "inside out," and the European approach, which is "outside in." Using the American method, actors begin the work of creating a character in a play from a psychological point of view. They search for personal qualities inside themselves that are similar to those of the character. Using those similarities, the actor builds outward, layer upon layer, to create all the attitudes and behaviors of the person he or she will eventually portray. (One drawback of this approach: Actors are forced to spend a great deal of time convincing themselves with no guarantees they will convince others.)
In the self-improvement arena, there are many inside-out equivalents: We are encouraged to look inside ourselves for the sources of our behaviors and understand why we do and say what we do. The belief is that by changing the way we think on the inside, we will change the way we act on the outside. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
When building a character using the European approach, actors begin by creating the outward behaviors of the characters they will play. They first imagine the way the characters would walk, talk, and behave. Then the actor moves inward, layer by layer, developing the psychological reasons for the behaviors of the person being played.
This device is also used in the self-improvement arena. By changing our external behaviors we can influence what others feel and also what we feel inside. For instance, if you behave as though you are happy or excited you will probably convince others that you are happy and excited; but an added bonus is that you, too, will begin to feel happy or excited.
The Power of Charm has been written as an outside-in book. In it, we deal with how you can change your external behavior by developing and using certain skills -- skills that give you control of the personal image that you want others to see. We let your inner dynamics take care of themselves.
An old friend of ours, let's call her Miriam, came to visit us to apologize for her outburst at dinner a few nights before. Her mood swings and eruptions were legendary. She mentioned that she had been seeing the same psychiatrist for seven years. "Seven years," echoed my wife Nicky. "That's an awfully long time to stay with any shrink."
"Tell me, after all that time, do you think you've got your money's worth?" I asked, which provoked an icy glare from my wife.
"Well," Miriam thought for a moment, "yes and no. I understand why I behave the way I do, but I still can't really control myself. So I've been wondering about that, whether all the time and money has been worth it."
She seemed quite dejected and defeated as she sat there.
Nicky said, "Have you ever thought about changing to another therapist? We know a psychologist who specializes in behavioral problems. Would you be willing to have a chat with him, he might be able to help?"
Miriam was quiet for a while then said, "I may as well" -- and she sighed -- "I've nothing to lose."
We didn't hear from or see her for some time. Then one evening she called. I answered the phone.
"Hello, Ron, this is Miriam."
"Miriam, how are you?"
"Coming along fine," she replied.
"What happened with the psychologist?" I asked. "Did you ever call him?"
"Yes, I did," she said, "I've been seeing him for a few weeks now and there's already quite a difference. What's interesting is that he really doesn't bother too much about why I do things; he mostly concentrates on how I can behave differently."
We saw Miriam at a dinner party a couple of months later and the change was astonishing. The kind of things that would have had her pounding the table or going mano a mano with anyone who contradicted her were now ignored. She was a pleasure to be with.
When we commented on the change, she told us, "It's not only that I can control my behavior no matter what's going on inside me, but I don't get as agitated as I used to. I've learned that changing my behavior reduces my agitation."
Miriam's story is a confirmation of the difference between "inside out" and "outside in" as it applied to everyday life. It's a fact: Knowing why you're doing things does not automatically mean that you know how to change them. If you really want change, worry less about the why and concentrate more on the how. It is often easier and faster for us to change from the outside than to change from the inside.
To go back to the example at the beginning of Chapter 1, do you think that Bill Clinton was genuinely interested in Mark Sanborn, or was his warmth, his utter "in the moment" focus, a cultivated behavior? And does it really matter? Regardless of what's going on in your head, what you are ultimately judged by is your behavior. If you behave as though you hate, then you hate; if you behave as though you love, then you love; if you behave as though you care, you care.
People will react based on how they perceive us to behave, no matter what our inner agendas may be.
Don't worry so much about changing the way you think and feel inside, because it may take a long time to show any improvement or results. Instead, concentrate on behaving exactly as if you were already a charming person. Create a mental image of yourself as absolutely charming on the inside, and then act accordingly on the outside.
Select someone you feel is already charming and think about how that person treats others in conversation. Try to do the same things that person does when you talk to others.