5 subtle ways to charm anyone you meet, according to psychologists

If there’s anyone who’s got charm down to an ancient art form, it’s Cher Horowitz from Clueless.

Now I know the movie is coming up on being three decades old but it still sticks in my mind like it was released last week. And obviously Cher’s got a whole lot to do with it.

Cher might be into her flawless makeup and her killer outfit (that digital closet, anyone?) but her charm isn’t about putting on a show or pretending to be something she’s not.

No, no, no—she owns who she is and she does it with 100% confidence.

You can just feel it radiating off of her, the girl’s just got that special something that makes you want to be in her high school squad.

Best of all, it’s not just an act. You can tell she genuinely cares about the folks in her life.

So thank you, Cher. Thanks for being living proof that you can be fab and kind while being a total charmer.

But for the rest of us mere mortals, how can we strive to wield this level of natural charisma?

Well, it’s easy.

Okay, it’s not easy but it is totally learnable. Here are five subtle ways to charm anyone you meet, according to psychologists.

1) Be culturally sensitive to people

In order to put on the charm, you’ve got to know what you’re working with! And in order to do that, you’ve got to become a really good reader of people—be it friends, lovers, coworkers, or the local barista.

A fascinating 2017 study in the journal Frontiers for Young Minds looked into the cultural nuances of reading the people around us.

Experts found that the myriad cultural differences massively shape how we perceive facial details and therefore form judgments on emotions—who would’ve thought?

Researchers shared the following insight: “People from different cultures express their emotions using different facial signals, and also, different cultures analyze facial gestures differently.”

For instance, full-on, direct eye contact is often seen as a sign of confidence and honesty in some cultures, while in others, it can be viewed as a tad confrontational.

So, before you go full charm offensive, factor in this person, or audience’s, specific cultural needs—that’s the most subtle trick I can give you today!

2) Actually mean what you say

Whatever you do, you don’t wanna equate charm with being fake.

That’s right, out with the superficial, in with the authenticity, pal.

A study into what attractive traits in people in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, found that “honesty” and “sincerity” always come across super well to others.

Think about it, trying way too hard to be impressive can be the ultimate ick. For me, personally, being totally unfettered and real is the thing that wins out.

What being charmingly authentic means essentially boils down to is embracing who you really are, and not the person you put out into the world on Instagram or Linkedin.

People can usually tell when you’re genuine, and when you’re putting on airs, so striving for perfection can come off as fake because, let’s face it, no one is perfect! Absolutely none of us.

Plus, when you’re authentic, you give others permission to be themselves, too. And we all need a little bit more of that, especially after one big long doom scroll.

To me, sincerity is the foundation of charm—and authenticity is the very thing that will make you stand out.

Plus, here’s my two cents: some of the most wildly charismatic out there, yeah?

It’s not an act… they are just being real. Totally and unabashedly themselves.

3) Be endlessly curious in conversation

I’ve always been of the belief that curiosity opens doors all around the world—no matter who you are or what you have access to.

Truly, curiosity has the power to create real, authentic connections wherever you go.

Plus, I’ve forever been drawn to curious people. I really cannot resist them—they’re just way too charming!

And guess what? Experts have insights into why this might be the case.

In an article about a number of character strengths, clinical psychologist Dr. Reham Al Taher noted that curiosity was one major thing folks were naturally drawn to.

“The more curious and creative we allow ourselves to become, the more we gain perspective and wisdom,” said Dr. Al Taher.

And this had powerful knock-on effects. In turn, you’ll develop a love for learning. Dr. Al Taher continued: “This is developing the virtue of wisdom and knowledge.”

The next time you’re meeting someone new, go ahead and give yourself permission to be curious.

Remember, there’s a major difference between being inquisitive and being downright nosey. Asking questions about their darling little dog? Good.

Asking questions about their somewhat messy divorce? Not so good.

With the right and balanced kind of charming curiosity, you never know what’s going to happen or where it will lead you.

You might charm your way into finding a new bestie, an epic new job, or a life-changing trip abroad.

4) Listen, and listen well

Active listening 5 subtle ways to charm anyone you meet, according to psychologists

In this world, everyone wants to feel important. Even if they don’t say it, they really, really do.

And let me say it… tapping into that is the number one secret of today’s lesson at charm school.

This is because pretty much all human beings, bar a certain few, all crave real connection.

So, when a person listens to us, as in, really listens, it can feel almost euphoric, like a potent drug.

And the psychology backs this up. A scientific study found that listening is one incredible yet subtle way to connect with other people—and in turn come across as ultra charming.

Across researchers’ handful of experiments, people who actively and deeply focused on listening were able to decode emotions with accuracy.

Yale author Michael Kraus, PhD, said: “What we find here is that perhaps people are paying too much attention to the face — the voice might have much of the content necessary to perceive others’ internal states accurately.”

Remember, listening isn’t just hearing words—it’s soaking up the emotions behind them.

Plus, it’s way more than that. It’s about actually wanting to learn about the emotions.

If the genuine desire to listen isn’t there, you’re going to struggle with this charm game, pal.

Believe me, charmingly listening is all about empathy and making the other person feel heard. And in my experience, most people sadly don’t do this—which is why it’s going to make you stand out.

Just remember these 4 simple and easy-to-follow steps. I promise I’ve tried and tested every single one of these.

  1. Stop planning your response—be completely in the moment.
  2. Focus completely on the other person.
  3. Listen to understand, rather than to instantly talk back.
  4. Ask questions tailored to them.

…and voila!

5) Look at body language, and be aware of your own

I’ll say it: some people in this world are human magnets. Well at least it feels like it

They have this incredible, unseeable force that seems to just reel people right in. And craziest thing of all?

It doesn’t even look like they’re making a fuss about it. It seems, well, totally natural and built-in.

A little trick that they don’t want you to know is that they’re pretty much body language experts. Both in reading it and in conveying it.

A recent study by Princeton University looked into all of the emotions that are typically conveyed in a person’s body language.

Researchers said: “The message of this research is that there is a lot of information in body language people aren’t necessarily aware of.”

Think about it. Folding your arms across your chest?

That’s like erecting a big brick wall around your body, telling others you’re not very much open to chat.

On the flip side, leaning into the other person?

Well, that’s like a charming calling card. This way, you’re engaged, attentive, and genuinely interested in getting to know a person.

Paying attention to body language not only levels up your charm but also sharpens your communication skills, making you a master of listening and empathy.

And that, my pal, is the very elixir of charm.




Picture of Mia Zhang

Mia Zhang

Mia Zhang blends Eastern and Western perspectives in her approach to self-improvement. Her writing explores the intersection of cultural identity and personal growth. Mia encourages readers to embrace their unique backgrounds as a source of strength and inspiration in their life journeys.

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